By Derrick DePledge
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Wednesday that his administration is committed to reaching a land preservation agreement with Turtle Bay Resort this year.
The governor has asked state lawmakers for $40 million in general obligation bond money for a conservation easement that would be used to protect 610 acres near Kawela Bay and Kahuku Point from development.
The state Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee and the Senate Water and Land Committee held an informational briefing on Wednesday to hear an update on negotiations.
The state and Turtle Bay are in talks over price. The state’s appraisal is between $31 million and $38 million, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, while the resort’s figure is higher, mostly due to fixed infrastructure costs that are being worked out with the city.
The state is waiting to hear from the resort’s developers -- likely in February -- on a reduced infrastructure plan that reflects lesser development because of the land conservation. A land preservation agreement could prevent the development of 750 homes. The resort, however, could still move forward with two new oceanfront hotels.
Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, indicated that the state House, which takes action on the state budget before the Senate, should be given information on the negotiations so the bond money might be included in the House budget draft.
Abercrombie urged quick action.
“I can assure you we’re going to push on this,” the governor said. “This has to be settled now. It has to be settled so that you can take this up in a timely way.”
Drew Stotesbury, the chief executive officer of Turtle Bay Resort, told senators he is optimistic about an agreement.
Doug Cole, the executive director of the North Shore Community Land Trust, described the negotiations as collaborative. “We’re trying to preserve a special part of this island that benefits all of us,” he said. “Regardless of where we live, the North Shore is a recreational refuge, a place that we go to get away from the city, to relieve stress, to get in the ocean, to achieve that high quality of life that defines being a resident of Hawaii.”