Landmark agreement to preserve North Shore land still not done deal

Landmark agreement to preserve North Shore land still not done deal

NORTH SHORE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A major North Shore land deal is in limbo. Ten months after state leaders signed a $48.5 million agreement to preserve the scenic North Shore coastline, the Legislature is not ready with the money. And with a new administration in charge, the project is facing even more delays.

Even the current governor, who worked out the financing himself last year, is unclear what's included in the deal.

Many thought it was a done deal when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the legislation to preserve 650 acres of scenic land next to the Turtle Bay Resort. But advocates are fighting to keep the deal alive.

"We're really concerned that all the years that went into the decades of litigation, all of the community support for conserving Turtle Bay could be wasted," said Lea Hong of the Trust for Public Lands.

"This monumental agreement between a private landowner, the government and the community to conserve a special place will fall apart," said Doug Cole, executive director of the North Shore Community Land Trust.

That deal calls for the state to issue $40 million in bonds to pay for 650 acres along Kawela Bay.

In exchange, Turtle Bay's owners get to build two new hotels and 725 housing units on other parts of its property.

The deal was supposed to be done by June 30, but the state needed more time to issue the bonds, so it introduced a bill, asking for a one-year extension. The bills passed the Senate but stalled last week in the House tourism committee.

"We didn't have the votes to pass it,” said Rep. Tom Brewer. “There were a lot of members uncomfortable and I deferred it.”

Gov. David Ige developed the financing plan and continues to back it. But even he has questions.

Mike McCartney, Ige's chief of staff, addressed a few concerns.

"What are we gettin? Are we getting restrooms? Are we getting public access? What about cultural issues? And then on top of that, are we paying a fair price? The deal was not done last year. The details have not been worked out," he said.

We're told that earlier Monday afternoon, House Speaker Joe Souki transferred the bill to another committee, which bought some more time. But the future of Turtle Bay is still very much up in the air.

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