Purchasing plan debuts
Turtle Bay: Legislature responds to Lingle
A proposal to buy and preserve undeveloped land around the Turtle Bay Resort got support from a key state senator and community groups, but it is still unclear how much it will cost to buy the North Shore property.
The Koolauloa North Shore Alliance, made up of 15 community groups, held a news conference at the Legislature yesterday to support a bill moving through the Legislature after Gov. Linda Lingle proposed buying the 850-acre property that includes the Turtle Bay Resort hotel.
Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the Senate Water and Land Committee held a hearing yesterday on a bill (SB2423 SD1) to acquire the undeveloped land around the resort, and not the hotel itself.
Hee said the Turtle Bay Resort's owners have two lenders that have estimated the value of the hotel and lands at about $400 million.
"Obviously the unimproved lands will be much lower," Hee said. "We don't believe the state should be in the hotel resort business."
The bill would also allow the state to use its power of eminent domain to force the sale of the land.
Lingle's senior policy adviser, Linda Smith, said the state needs to have the flexibility to purchase the entire parcel.
"It is necessary and prudent for the state to have the ability to acquire the entire area ... to use the proceeds from the sale of the developed portions and possible additional developable sections to protect an agreed-upon portion of undeveloped space," Smith said.
Smith also asked that a provision in the bill be deleted that allows for bonds to be floated to purchase the property.
"The negotiating team will lose leverage in negotiating a fair and reasonable price," Smith said. "Real estate markets are dynamic, and thus, it is important that maximum leeway be given to the negotiating team without signaling to the sellers what the state might be willing to pay for this property."
Officials from the Kuilima Resort Co., which owns the property, were not present at yesterday's hearing. But in written testimony, the company said it was opposed to the bill, citing the company's $400 million debt to its lenders.
The company plans to add five new hotels with up to 3,500 rooms and units, which community members oppose.
"We're for smart growth, we're for planned growth," said Mark Cunningham, co-chairman of the Defend Oahu Coalition. "The time is long gone for development of this magnitude on this island."
A decision on the bill is scheduled for later this week. If it advances, the measure would go to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Turtle Bay "talk story"
Governor Linda Lingle will host a public "talk story" meeting to discuss and listen to community opinions the proposal to purchase the 850-acre Turtle Bay property, including five miles of pristine coastline on Oahu's North Shore.
» The meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 4, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Kahuku High School cafeteria.