Don’t let opportunity to acquire Turtle Bay slip away
A deadline for making a deal for the North Shore property is looming.
THE state's proposed acquisition of the Turtle Bay resort and undeveloped land surrounding the North Shore is proving to be as complicated as anticipated, but the public's support of the plan to preserve at least part of the open space necessitates every effort be made.
In the latest development, the interim manager of the troubled resort is warning that he has just six months to find a buyer before creditors take over the resort and 472 acres of agricultural land mauka of Kamehameha Highway.
The state's interest is apparently causing more difficulties, not only in selling the holdings but also in marketing the resort to visitors, hurting the resort's revenue stream. Moreover, the legislation passed earlier this year to allow the state to condemn the property and acquire the undeveloped land through eminent domain is making potential buyers nervous about property rights in Hawaii.
The state has already acknowledged that the resort will have to be further developed in order for an investor to make enough profit and to maintain employee levels, which is important to the community. However, the trade-off cannot be so great as to neutralize the overriding goal of keeping open the land, views and access to the shoreline.
How much money will be involved in acquisition hasn't been divulged, but one lender, Credit Suisse, filed a $283 million foreclosure lawsuit last December against owner Kuilima Resorts Co.
Because of negotiations, not much information about potential buyers and what kind of deals are in the works is being made public, which adds to taxpayers' concerns.
Other issues hover over the proposal. The state Land Use Commission is considering a petition by a community group to rescind a 1986 reclassification of 236 acres from agriculture to urban, which cleared the way for expansion of the resort's plans. Meanwhile, an appeal of a lawsuit that seeks a supplemental environmental assessment to an outdated one conducted more than two decades ago is pending in the courts.
In a sense, the Turtle Bay situation reflects a larger conflict that has and continues to play out across the state. The economic pressures of tourism revenue and the need for jobs runs up against the desire to protect wild coastlines and other land from development.
Achieving both is nearly impossible, but it would be a shame to see another slice of undeveloped coastal landscape slip away.
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