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Court to hear opposition to Turtle Bay expansion


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POSTED: Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Hawaii Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear an appeal from conservation and environmental groups opposing an expansion project at the Turtle Bay Resort.

Keep the North Shore Country and Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter, argue that a 25-year-old environmental impact statement is outdated for the project at the North Shore resort.

The groups want a supplemental statement on the effect the proposed development would have on the environment and community.

Kuilima Resort Company, owner of Turtle Bay, is seeking approval for 3,500 hotel rooms on the North Shore. The resort currently has one hotel with 500 rooms.

Sharon Lovejoy, an attorney for Kuilima Resort, said the litigation has been a “;cloud on the project”; and Kuilima is pleased that the Supreme Court scheduled the hearing early.

In 2006, the city Department of Permitting and Planning determined another analysis of the same project's impact was not required by law. Two lower courts agreed with the city's decision.

“;The law says there needs to be a change in the project to require a supplemental EIS,”; said Lovejoy, referring to the environmental report.

The Sierra Club argues that the previous ruling means an environmental review can remain valid for hundreds of years, even after major hurricanes, shoreline erosion and changes to the community.

“;This ruling could be taken to absurd conclusions,”; the Sierra Club said in a statement.

Gil Riviere, president of Keep the North Shore Country, opposed the plan because of changes over 20 years, including heavier traffic on Kamehameha Highway. He added the project would bring over-development, traffic gridlock, interference with monk seals and the possible disturbance of ancient Hawaiian burial sites.

Lovejoy said the opponents' position would negatively impact development in Hawaii as lenders would hesitate to finance projects that are subject to further studies for any new issue.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 19.