Turtle Bay plan gets community OK
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Gov. Linda Lingle's proposal for the state to buy 850 acres of the Turtle Bay Resort, a potentially lengthy process and expensive purchase, won support from people in the community who have been battling hotel expansion.
In her annual State of the State address yesterday, Lingle said buying this section of the North Shore would preserve the land and help maintain the area's rural character. The state's acquisition would prevent a massive expansion of the resort -- a plan that has long angered community members.
Her announcement, which was kept a secret from the resort's owners and politicians representing the area, drew strong approval from community members.
"We're absolutely delighted," said Carol Philips, a member of the North Shore Neighborhood Board. "It's a huge relief to everyone in the community. To have that kind of support is just phenomenal."
Lingle said she had been considering the idea for at least the past month and a half. Community members have adamantly opposed Turtle Bay Resort's owner, Kuilima Resort Co., from expanding into the surrounding rural lands because of concerns over ancient Hawaiian burial grounds and a potential increase in traffic congestion.
"I was inspired by the community's unwillingness to just let it happen as if it was inevitable," Lingle said in a news conference after the speech. "As far as a future for our state, this makes a strong statement. We're not just saying we have to move away from developing all our land, but actually willing to come forward and do something."
Lingle did not give a cost estimate of acquiring Turtle Bay, but included several ideas, including selling off the resort portion, exchanging other state lands and creatively using tax credits over time. She pointed to past examples of land acquisitions, including Waimea Valley and Pupukea-Paumalu.
Lea Hong, Hawaiian Island Program director of the Trust for Public Land, said her organization will need to find creative ways to acquire the land, including tapping into private and federal funds.
Hong said this process could take several legislative sessions.