Turtle Bay expansion necessary, panel says
Advisory group says expansion within the existing resort needed to make deal work
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Despite widespread community opposition to enlarging the Turtle Bay Resort, an advisory group commissioned by Gov. Linda Lingle is considering a limited expansion of the North Shore property.
Expansion, but within the resort's existing footprint, is necessary to make the deal feasible and to keep the remaining portion of the 850-acre property undeveloped, said Eric Gill, head of a committee of the Turtle Bay Advisory Working Group focused on the resort's long-term viability.
"The reality is we're trying to mark a path that can get community support," Gill said.
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Gov. Linda Lingle's advisory group is considering limited expansion of the Turtle Bay Resort in an effort to make a state acquisition of the property viable.
Expansion within the resort's existing footprint is necessary to make the deal feasible and allow the remaining portions of the 850-acre property on Oahu's North Shore to be kept undeveloped, said Eric Gill, head of a committee of the Turtle Bay Advisory Working Group focused on the resort's long-term viability.
"Expansion is necessary to come up with the money to affect the deal," Gill told the working group, which met yesterday at the State Capitol. "We're trying to find a medium that can be accepted by the community as a tradeoff to keep the rest of the place green. The reality is we're trying to mark a path that can get community support."
The committee is attempting to revive interest by Starwood Hotels & Resorts in purchasing part of the resort. The hotel operator backed away from a deal to buy part of Turtle Bay last July. At the time, Starwood's plan was to add a time-share component to the resort, said Gill, who is secretary/treasurer of Unite Here Local 5, the hotel workers' union.
"Given the credit crunch ... a buyer may need to put in something like time share in order to come up with the money," Gill said.
Steve Metter, head of a separate committee looking at acquisition options, said the state is being approached by prospective buyers and will meet with interested parties over the next month.
The acquisition committee recommended the state try to get entitlements rescinded for the areas it is seeking to preserve.
Lingle pledged in her Jan. 22 State of the State address that the government would attempt to acquire the financially-troubled resort from Oaktree Capital Management LP, which is facing foreclosure on $283 million in loan repayments. Oaktree, which has owned Turtle Bay since 1998, has plans to develop up to 3,500 hotel and condominium units.
Meanwhile, the Defend Oahu Coalition on April 1 filed a petition urging the Hawaii State Land Use Commission to rescind its 1986 reclassification of 236 acres in Kahuku from agriculture to urban, which cleared the way for the expansion plans.
The community 20 years ago had supported Turtle Bay's expansion because of the prospect of new jobs in the wake of the demise of the sugar industry on the North Shore, according to the coalition. But Turtle Bay, which at the time said it had the financial wherewithal to complete expansion by 1995, did not begin construction. The resort has changed hands several times since 1986.
"The community is unlikely to support anything beyond the existing footprint," said Bob Nakata, co-chairman of the Defend Oahu Coalition. "Within the footprint, it is going to depend on what specifically is proposed."