Bill to buy Turtle Bay ready for committee
Legislators are expecting to know more tomorrow about how far the Lingle administration will go to save the Turtle Bay area of the North Shore from further development.
State senators pulled back a resolution yesterday endorsing Gov. Linda Lingle's unspecified plan to control the 880-acre area, which is zoned for an additional 3,500 resort units.
Supporters are now focused on a bill to purchase Turtle Bay, Senate Bill 2423, set for a conference committee tomorrow morning.
Yesterday's resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 346, had a defective title, according to Sen. Gary Hooser, who asked that it be withdrawn. Sen. Clayton Hee, who represents the North Shore, said the resolution had been drafted by Lingle to put the Legislature and administration on record as supporting a plan.
Hee said yesterday that the plan involves the state purchasing a portion or all of the property, selling the resort portion and then using the money to preserve the remaining undeveloped acreage.
"I've known her for 30 years and we have had our differences, but I believe she (Lingle) is going to do it," Hee (D, Kaneohe-Kahuku) said yesterday in an interview.
During an informal news conference, Lingle said the state has hired an appraiser to review the Turtle Bay property.
The plan involves "doing an evaluation of all the lands and then selling off that portion that is the resort and golf courses in order to pay down what it would cost us to buy all the remaining lands," Lingle said.
The governor and her staff have declined to say specifically what the state would purchase and how it would be accomplished, but said she remains hopeful.
"If we are able to strike a deal, depending on the time of it, the options would be a (legislative) special session sometime between now and the next session," Lingle said. "We also have a financial consultant on board to help us structure the agreement, but the bottom-line goal is to end up with all of the undeveloped property and to sell the hotel and golf course to a commercial entity as close to zero tax dollars spent as possible."
The plan was criticized by Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai), who said the state should not be bailing out private firms, such as the owners of Turtle Bay, who are in bankruptcy.
"Turtle Bay did not ask for any help from the Legislature. We do not have the money for this. This administration and this Legislature has no business purchasing the Turtle Bay Resort," Slom said.
Last week, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye criticized Lingle's preparation for the possible purchase, saying she had not done enough research into the issue for him to be able to help the state.
Lingle had asked Inouye for assistance in getting federal funds.
Inouye responded, saying Lingle's request was "delinquent" and had no information for Inouye to use.
Lingle said in response yesterday that she thought Inouye "woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day."
"When I read the letter, that was my reaction, quite honestly. It seemed to be over the top, antagonistic and negative. ... It was unexpected and quite surprising," she said.
Lingle added that the other members of the Hawaii congressional delegation had responded with helpful suggestions.