Turtle Bay purchase is once-in-a-generation opportunity
In my State of the State address, I introduced the idea that the state, in collaboration with private, public and nonprofit partners, should purchase the 850-acre Turtle Bay property on Oahu's North Shore.
As I stated in my address, and firmly believe, we cannot speculate or sell ourselves into prosperity. There is a time and a place for large-scale land development projects. We have many such places on Oahu, such as the downtown and Kakaako urban areas and the developing second city in Kapolei.
But there is also a time and place to preserve our natural environment and our heritage. The Turtle Bay property is the place and now is the time.
For too long, and too often, important pieces of rural Hawaii have been sold to the highest bidder and then developed into something that forever changed the essence and character of the entire area.
These developments are usually justified as necessary for job creation and economic expansion. But we cannot continue on this path because land is finite and its development will not sustain a healthy economy for future generations.
Instead, we need to transform the economy to one reliant on the intellectual capacity of our people, while pursuing opportunities to protect the environment and to preserve the crucial elements of Hawaii's lifestyle and identity. Preserving Turtle Bay is an important step in this direction.
The Turtle Bay property is an important part of the North Shore community. It remains a rural countryside, removed from the more populated areas of Honolulu and represents a vestige of Hawaii that is precious and significant to us all.
The property includes about five miles of coastline, much of which is pristine and undeveloped, and other large tracts that remain in their natural state.
Many Hawaii residents, as well as people throughout the world, know the North Shore as a place of refuge from our increasingly urban surroundings and also as an area of favorite surfing spots such as Sunset Beach, the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay.
This area is world renowned because it is the ideal Hawaii to many, and one of the few remaining places like it. We should work together to preserve this treasure.
The Turtle Bay property has one hotel, which includes 443 rooms, restaurants and other amenities. There are also two 18-hole golf courses, which host well-known tournaments. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the existing hotel, golf courses and related services, and they provide jobs for many in the community. These should be kept in place and continue to operate.
But, if developed as planned, Turtle Bay could turn into something very different, with five additional and separate hotel sites, five separate resort condominium sites, a shopping village, an equestrian center, a commercial clubhouse and a beach club. It is reported that this could add another 3,500 rooms to the property, a significant increase.
I have proposed that the state purchase the Turtle Bay property in order to protect the remaining areas and to allow the community, as a whole, to shape its preferred future.
I do not propose that the state operate the hotel or go into the resort business. Rather, I have suggested that the resort portion of the property could be sold as part of financing the remaining pur- chase. I believe such a sale is possible and that there are ways to allow the hotel to succeed as an integral part of the community, without needing to overbuild its surroundings.
Since I introduced the idea to purchase Turtle Bay, many have speculated on the cost. Some have suggested figures that are significantly inflated and which I believe have no basis. I do not believe it will cost anywhere near $500 million, as reported in the media and on Internet blogs. Local real estate experts and those familiar with the history of Oaktree's attempts to sell the property agree.
Before beginning discussions with the property owners, we are talking and meeting with many individuals and organizations that have knowledge of the property as well as the subject of large land preservation projects.
I also have made initial contact with the U.S. Department of the Interior and hope our congressional delegation will find ways to help the community achieve its dream of preserving this precious area.
Some are concerned that I have not presented a specific plan to purchase the land or explained what will be done with the property once it is acquired. I believe this proposal touches our entire community, and therefore requires discussion, collaboration and input from all sectors to develop a plan to finance the purchase, as well as the best way to manage and preserve the land.
As a community, we have recent successful land and building purchases, such as preserving Waimea Valley and Pupukea-Paumalu, and saving Kukui Gardens affordable housing, to draw upon as inspiration. Not only for the fact that it can be done, but it can be done through the enthusiastic participation of many partners who share the effort, the hard work it will no doubt entail, and the expense.
I ask that we all work together to pursue this worthy effort for the benefit of those here today and for those generations to come.