Judge rejects new review for Turtle Bay
Groups had sued to force a new environmental study for a revived 3,500-unit resort development plan
A state circuit judge yesterday dismissed a grass-roots lawsuit against Kuilima Resort Co. that would have required a new environmental study before officials could use a 20-year-old development plan to expand the Turtle Bay Resort.
Keep the North Shore Country and the Sierra Club had sued in May in response to a massive development plan that could add 3,500 more hotel and condominium units to an otherwise rural area stretching from Kawela Bay to Kahuku Point. Although the area's master plan allowing for such a development on the 880-acre resort was approved in 1986, the project never came to fruition because of financial problems.
Judge Sabrina McKenna found that there were no substantive changes to the proposed project or significant environmental impacts not covered in the initial environmental impact statement. Her ruling yesterday follows a Sept. 29 decision from the city to tentatively approve Kuilima Resort's subdivision application, a decision which essentially pushed the controversial project forward.
The judge also ruled yesterday that the city's approval "was not arbitrary or capricious."
Nicola Jones, chief executive officer of Kuilima Resort, said that the dismissal of the lawsuit will give the resort more time to seek community input to create a balanced development. Jones also said that the company has taken steps to protect the environment.
"Protecting the environment is important to us and has been a priority throughout the planning process," Jones said. "We have conducted updated studies on traffic impact, water quality and other important aspects of the proposed development; however, the ... supplemental environmental impact statement was clearly not necessary."
Jones said that Kuilima Resort has had dialogue with key community members and that the resort feels that discussion is more beneficial than litigation. The company has not been able to meet with members of Keep the North Shore County or the Sierra Club because of litigation.
But Gil Riviere, president of Keep the North Shore Country, said after the ruling he was disappointed in McKenna's decision, but added that "It's not over."
Plaintiffs' attorney Laura P. Couch of Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing said that her clients will discuss filing an appeal, which they have 30 days to do.
"I don't agree with the judge's conclusion," Couch said. Since the development was originally approved, there are new traffic patterns and socio-economic conditions at the resort, she said.
Jeff Mikulina, director of the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter, said: "There have been substantial changes in the last 20 years to warrant further review. We think the residents of the North Shore deserve to know what the current impacts will be if the resort is expanded."
Doug Cole, a Keep the North Shore Country board member, said both groups will continue their efforts.
"We've had island- and nationwide support," Cole said. "We've received letters and donations from people from all over the islands and from the North Shore as well as places like California and Canada. We're still optimistic."
Plans for a Nov. 25 dinner and silent auction fundraiser at Waimea Valley are still on, Cole said.
Star-Bulletin reporter Debra Barayuga contributed to this article.