BLNR approves Turtle Bay conservation deal

BLNR approves Turtle Bay conservation deal

The battle over new development at Turtle Bay Resort may soon be over. The Board of Land and Natural Resources approved an agreement on Friday to preserve hundreds of acres of undeveloped property next to the resort.

"Today was a monumental step forward towards realizing 30 years of a community dream to conserve a very special part of Oahu at Kawela Bay and Kahuku Point," said Doug Cole, executive director of North Shore Community Land Trust.

The controversy surrounding expansion plans at Turtle Bay Resort dates back decades. The former owners received approval in 1986 to build 3,500 additional units, including five new hotel sites, but the development never happened due to public opposition.

The $45 million acquisition involves roughly 635 acres. 569 acres will be set aside for a conservation easement. The deal also includes a fee simple purchase by the state of 53 acres at Kawela Bay. The land will be leased back to the resort for existing commercial activities for 65 years for $480 a year.

"This is probably the most valuable land certainly on our property, and possibly the entire North Shore. It's a jewel and it will never be developed," said Drew Stotesbury, CEO of Turtle Bay Resort.

The state will plans to come up with $35 million through transient accommodations tax revenues and funds from the land conservation fund to reimburse the state general fund for the debt service on reimbursable general obligation bonds. The city will add $7.5 million and the group Trust for Public Land will contribute $2.5 million.

Turtle Bay Resort has downsized its development plans. Under the deal, the company will be allowed to build two hotels with 625 rooms total and up to 100 resort residential homes.

"It's been complicated. There's been a lot of money at stake, a lot of investors coming and going and a lot of strong community opposition. So this is probably the best outcome we could expect," said State Senator Gil Riviere (D - Heeia, Laie, Waialua).

"It will have about 10 to 12 miles of trail access, and most importantly, access to the shoreline which will remain undeveloped so that people will be able to enjoy this for generations to come," said Attorney General Doug Chin.

The parties hope to close the deal in mid-October.

NORTH SHORE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Drew Stotesbury, CEO of Turtle Bay Resort, issued the following statement in response to the board's decision:

Today's decision by the Board of Land and Natural Resources cements the commitment to conservation made to the public and community groups by three levels of government, land trusts and Turtle Bay. We're extremely grateful to BLNR Chair Suzanne Case and the board members for the careful and thoughtful consideration they gave to this proposal for conservation and the long-term benefits it will bring to the residents and communities of Koolauloa, the North Shore and the State as whole. We are finalizing the details to close the acquisition with all stakeholders involved and look forward to celebrating that occasion and all that it represents to our collective future.

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