Supreme court asked to review Turtle Bay expansion
KAHUKU—The community preservation group Keep the North Shore Country, and the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club asked the Hawaii Supreme Court on Tuesday, September 8, to decide whether a supplemental environmental review of the proposed Turtle Bay Resort expansion is necessary. The last environmental impact statement (EIS), which was completed back in 1985, does not take into consideration significant community and environmental changes that have become relevant in the 24 years since the last EIS was finished.
In 2006, the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) made the decision that the proposed developer, Kuilima Resort Company, would not be required to produce an EIS for their 24-year-old plan to expand the Turtle Bay Resort. The company plans to increase the hotel’s current number of rooms, which is less than 500, to 4000 hotel and condominium units. That same year, Keep the North Shore Country and the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club filed suit to compel the DPP to require a supplemental EIS. Both the Circuit Court and Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Kuilima Resort Company and the City and County of Honolulu, and decided that as long as there would be no changes to the project design, no supplemental EIS would be required.
Environmental groups as well as community members of the area do not agree with the court’s decision.
“We filed suit last Tuesday and asked the Supreme Court to hear the case,” said Gil Riviere, president of Keep the North Shore Country. “Kuilima has 10 days to respond, and the court has around 45 days to decide if they will hear it, or if the case is closed. We lost at the lower court and the intermediate court but we are optimistic.”
The expansion plans, Riviere explains, do not account for potential issues that have developed since the original EIS.
“Good decisions require good information,” said Riviere in a press release on September 8. “We’re concerned the City and County of Honolulu should not rely solely on a stale 1985 analysis.”
Since the 1985 EIS, there have been significant traffic problems near the Turtle Bay resort as well as the nesting of endangered species like the Hawaiian Monk Seal around the proposed construction area. This information will not be considered unless a new supplemental EIS is completed.
“A 24-year-old EIS being considered relevant for construction today is ridiculous,” said North Shore resident Lynn Watts. “A new one needs to be done and consider today’s environmental and community concerns.”
The root concern for the plaintiffs is that Turtle Bay’s 1985 EIS could remain valid for hundreds of years, even if there are major hurricanes, drastic shoreline erosion, or othersignificant changes to the community and the land—a legal precedent that could impact numerous other developments that have received some approval, but have remained inactive for years.
“The purpose of an EIS is to ensure decision makers have the necessary information about the human and environmental impacts of a proposed project,” said Robert D. Harris, Director of the Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter. “This lets the community be involved in the process and ensures smart decisions are made. Plainly, the City and County of Honolulu cannot rely upon obsolete information to decide on a project that is no longer appropriate for the community.”