Proposed development at Turtle Bay bothers residents
Some are concerned about renewed plans to build 3,500 units
On a big wave day at the North Shore, it takes Peter Cole an hour and a half to get from Haleiwa to his country home at Sunset Beach.
"It's just bumper-to-bumper traffic," said Cole, who has been living and surfing on the North Shore since the 1960s and loves his tranquil lifestyle.
Kuilima Resort Co. will present development plans to the Koolauloa Neighbor-hood Board at 7 p.m. tonight at the Hauula Civic Center at 54010 Kukuna Road.
But it's the wave of proposed development coming to Turtle Bay Resort, the North Shore's only major hotel, that Cole and other residents are most concerned will hurt their pristine paradise, he said.
The popularity of the North Shore has inflated property values, stretched community services and created traffic jams -- and resurrected a two-decade-old master plan at Turtle Bay Resort that would bring 3,500 new hotel and condominium units to an otherwise rural area stretching from Kawela Bay to Kahuku Point.
"That would just be immense," said Cole, who first opposed the plan when it was presented in mid-1980s because of potential negative impacts on the region's environment, traffic conditions and quality of life.
Turtle Bay Resort's master plan, which included five lodging structures, was expected to be completed by 1996 but never came to fruition due to its then-struggling financial position. Oaktree Capital, which acquired Turtle Bay in 1999 and has spent $60 million upgrading the once-dilapidated hotel, is now moving forward on the original development master plan that was approved years ago, said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for Kuilima Resort Co., the developer of Turtle Bay.
"This plan been in effect and on record for almost two decades," Carlson said. "It was created by people who were concerned about losing plantation jobs and wanted to ensure that there was a mechanism for job creation in the North Shore."
Carlson said development, which is still as much as two years out, will create an estimated 2,500 jobs for the region and establish Turtle Bay as one of Hawaii's finest destinations.
Being the lone hotel on the North Shore has been a challenge, said Abid Butt, vice president and general manager of Turtle Bay Resort.
"We know that creating a positive critical mass will be an enormous enhancement to power our marketing efforts," Butt said.
The proposed development at Turtle Bay has the potential to breathe new life into the North Shore, create hundreds of jobs and add millions of dollars to the economy, Butt said. The master plan also includes provisions for four public parks, a job-training center, a child-care center, five public rights of way to beaches, and a 100-foot shoreline easement for public use.
"Executed in a tasteful, appropriate manner, this development will be an enhancement to the remote, country feeling of the North Shore and will provide a much-needed economic stimulus as well as jobs that require no commuting to Central Oahu," he said.
While hotel workers union Local 5 supported the development in the 1980s, the union is now opposed to the project.
"We don't think it's going to create the quality jobs that our workers need," said Eric Gill, financial secretary-treasurer for Local 5. "Turtle Bay Resort pays workers less money and offers substantially less benefits than our other Oahu hotels."
The union, which has been involved in a consumer boycott of Turtle Bay Resort since 2003, has filed an injunction to stop the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting from giving Kuilima Resort Co. the necessary permits to move forward on the project, Gill said.
Local 5 joined North Shore community groups to rally in front of the resort in January to protest further development of the area, and the region's neighborhood board members have been flooded with calls, said Creighton Mattoon, chairman of the land and planning committee for the Koolauloa Neighborhood Board.
"I think community sentiments on development vary from total support to total opposition to many positions in between," Mattoon said. He gets two to three calls a week about the proposed project.
While some have told Mattoon that the project would be good for economic development and would create jobs, others are concerned that its environmental impact statement is too old and needs to be re-examined.
"They are saying that there needs to be a cultural and social impact study and that the archeological study is too old," Mattoon said.
Others are worried that the region's two-lane main transportation artery cannot support the development, he said.
Population and visitor growth has created "a mathematical problem that didn't exist 20 years ago," said Carol Philips, president of the North Shore Neighborhood Board.
Right now, the mood among North Shore residents is somber, Philips said.
"People like the country: That's the sole reason that we live in the North Shore," she said. "The atmosphere of the North Shore will change as a result of this development. I think it's just starting to sink in for the community that this could be an impending reality."