TURTLE BAY, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Turtle Bay Resort held an open house for Oahu's North Shore community and others to talk about its plans for expansion -- plans that have been in the works for decades.
The former owners of the resort had received approval in 1986 to build up to 3,500 units, including five new hotel sites. Those plans were never carried out because of the outcry against the development. The resort currently has 401 hotel rooms and 40 cottages.
The resort's owner was also ordered by the court to issue a supplemental environmental impact statement.
Turtle Bay Resort's current owners could still build that many units if they want to, but have downsized their plans.
"It has two hotel sites instead of five. We have 625 hotel units instead of 2,500, and it has 1,375 units overall," said resort CEO Drew Stotesbury. "It's a much kinder, gentler plan."
The resort had several drawings, maps and renderings that showed the proposed development plans. Stotesbury said they illustrate how the downsized development will have a much smaller impact on the area.
"It's a tremendous improvement," said Sarah Cadiz of the Kuilima-North Shore Strategy Committee, which has been working with the resort since the original plans were drafted. "Downscaled 60 percent in density. It's a tremendous difference."
But opponents said the resort should go back to the drawing board.
"They say there's a great reduction on what they're legally entitled to build, which is true," said Mark Cunningham of the Save Oahu Coalition. "But what I think most residents have to realize is that what they're proposing to build is two to three times what's existing here already."
Opponents are also concerned that any new development will have a negative impact on traffic on Kamehameha Highway, which is already congested along many parts of the North Shore. The resort said it will spend $18 million dollars on traffic improvements, including turn lanes and highway widening. it also said it would work with state and city transportation officials to manage and improve traffic flow.
Stotesbury also said the expansion will create more than 750 new jobs at the resort. "There's been a lot of lost employment here in the Kahuku area, and so the hotel represents an opportunity -- the resort represents an opportunity to rebuild that," he said.
Comments are being taken on the supplemental EIS through January 18. If all goes according to plan, groundbreaking could take place in 2014.