Lawmakers delay vote on Turtle Bay purchase
The state administration probably will summon lawmakers back into special session when it reaches an agreement to buy Turtle Bay to stop a proposed development.
The current plan is for the state to buy the property and sell the resort, according to Sen. Clayton Hee and Linda Smith, Linda Lingle's senior policy adviser.
Hee, chairman of the Water and Land Committee, said negotiations between the administration and potential buyers of the property will not be done until after the Legislature adjourns next Thursday.
"Negotiations won't be done by May 1st. I am equally confident that when the agreement is struck, she (Gov. Linda Lingle) will call us into special session," said Hee (D, Kaneohe-Kahuku).
House and Senate conference committee members postponed yesterday a decision on Senate Bill 2423 to purchase the 850-acre North Shore property.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said the Legislature needs more public information before an official action.
"A special session is the only way the people will have a chance to say, 'At what price Turtle Bay?'" Hanabusa said.
In an interview yesterday, Hanabusa said she does not know how the Legislature is going to come up with the funds "unless the public is apprised of how much this is needed and how the whole thing is going to work."
"It is up to the conferees, but I am not sure what they can put into the bill unless more conditions are known to the public," Hanabusa said, adding that the Legislature was criticized for acting too quickly in approving a new law to let the Hawaii Superferry sail last summer.
"I don't think we want to be accused of saying that the end justifies the means," Hanabusa said.
Hee contends the administration will be able to explain a plan to purchase the property, sell the resort and preserve the remaining acreage.
The undeveloped land is zoned for further development, and Lingle said the addition of 3,500 more hotel units prompted her to attempt to preserve the property.
"The governor is going to have to lay out a plan which will address other issues besides the actual acquisition. It may require exemptions on issues dealing with zoning, tax credits or other exemptions," Hee said.
Smith said the administration is not asking the Legislature to specify how much to spend on the purchase, because it would tip off possible buyers. "If you put some dollar amount in the general fund, what you are doing is tipping your hand in your negotiations," Smith said.
Negotiations, Smith said, could become complicated because the North Shore community is interested in preserving both the land and existing jobs at the current Turtle Bay Resort.
"There were promises made to the community for a beach park and a training center, so when we talk to a prospective buyer, the buyer may want to put in some of those features, but we don't know," Smith said.