Supplemental EIS needed for Turtle Bay Resort
TURTLE BAY Resort recently settled a multiyear labor dispute with the Local 5 Hotel Workers Union and quickly proclaimed a new era of openness. The CEO of Kuilima Resort Co. "wants to put a friendlier face on the project." Why, then, will the developer not accept the community's earnest call for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement?
We would love to see a kinder, gentler neighbor, but we are not holding our breath for any substantive changes regarding the plan to expand Turtle Bay Resort from 500 to 4,000 hotel and condo units. We suspect the developer is more interested in ramping up its public relations machine than it is interested in listening to the community. Indeed, we expect it to conduct surveys and focus groups in search of some nebulous claim of support for its massive expansion plans.
During recent months the development team has presented its plan to community groups and universally been confronted with intense opposition. A preposterous fallacy keeps making its way into the news media that the community is split on the plan to build five hotels and 1,000 luxury condominium units on the North Shore.
BESIDES a couple of articles submitted by resort employees, we are not aware of a single letter to the editor in support of the proposed expansion, while letters opposing the expansion are regular reading. Saying that the community is split and there is only some opposition to the current plan is like saying that someone is just a little bit pregnant: a huge understatement.
On May 19, Keep the North Shore Country filed suit to force the City Department of Planning and Permitting to order a Supplemental EIS. So much has changed on Oahu since the original EIS was completed in 1985 that a Supplemental EIS is entirely reasonable. In the intervening 2 1/2 months, have we seen a kinder, gentler resort owner or cooperative city officials? Sadly, we have not.
For example, Kuilima Resort Co. will not grant KNSC permission to inspect the property as part of the discovery phase of the case. Is the developer trying to make us spend money on court proceedings to order a visit, which would surely be granted? Is the mighty corporation trying to run up our legal expenses? When does this new era of openness begin?
THE BIG corporation's legal team, joined by attorneys in the city's corporation counsel, recently called in some of the directors of KNSC for depositions that seemed to lack any serious purpose. Is spinning wheels and burning money their game? Goliath will not be able to shoo away David with these tactics.
And what is the city's corporation counsel doing? Whose side are they on? Are they honestly neutral between the wishes of the residents of Oahu and the wishes of the developer, or have they tacitly taken the side of the developer? Why have they "gagged" the city politicians yet allowed the Department of Planning and Permitting to testify at the state Legislature against resolutions asking for a Supplemental EIS?
Where are our elected officials? Since when do the unelected city attorneys in corporation counsel call the shots and restrict our elected officials from taking action or even stating an opinion of great interest and importance to the community? City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz submitted two resolutions on this matter, taking substantial heat from corporation counsel, who scared the other Council members away from taking any action. Both resolutions are deferred indefinitely.
RESOLUTION 06-173, submitted by Dela Cruz in early May, called on the developer to seek input from the community and to amend the Unilateral Agreement, a conditional zoning change and expansion proposal, that was last debated in 1986. Once again, we ask, Where is that kinder, gentler neighbor with the friendly face?
In spite of the profound opposition to dramatic expansion at Turtle Bay, the developer will argue that some people support some development on the North Shore. That is not the issue.
At issue is whether this colossal development should be allowed to proceed, no matter what, because of a conditional approval 20 years ago, or should it have to update the underlying EIS to address endangered species, including Hawaiian birds, sea turtles and monk seals, new environmental laws, new Hawaiian burial and archeology requirements, increased traffic and tourist numbers, power shortages and so on? The answer is obvious.
We look forward to a real era of openness and communication with our friendlier neighbor, beginning with the Supplemental EIS.
Gil Riviere is president of Keep the North Shore Country. He lives in Haleiwa.