Hawaii Lawmakers Approve $40M to Keep Turtle Bay Land From Development

Photo: Ambika Castle

The final piece of funding needed to put 665 acres of Turtle Bay resort off-limits to development fell into place Thursday when state lawmakers—on the final day of the legislative session—agreed to spend $40 million for the land's preservation.

The funding is part of a $48.5 million deal, announced last month by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, in which Turtle Bay’s owner has agreed to establish a conservation easement on the greater part of its 852-acre property. The easement would prohibit further development of the land in perpetuity. The acreage includes wetlands, sand dunes, most of the resort’s shoreline, and two golf courses.

“The result will keep the country, country,” Abercrombie said in a statement released after the Legislature signed off on the deal. “It will protect pristine coastlines from development. It will provide open space and access for everyone.”

The Honolulu City Council has pledged $5 million toward the purchase of the easement from the resort, and the Trust for Public Land has pledged $3.5 million.

As part of the agreement, Turtle Bay has slashed its expansion plans by about 60 percent, reducing the number of new hotel and residential units it will build from 1,375 to 735, according to the resort’s CEO, Drew Stotesbury. The resort still plans to build two new hotels along the coast, plus a 100-unit resort housing development along the Kahuku side of the property.

Sen. Clayton Hee, whose district includes Turtle Bay, praised deal. “I am very humble and grateful that the Legislature saw the wisdom of this investment for future generations to enjoy the coastline as it was when Native Hawaiians first stepped foot on the shore of Kahuku,” Hee said.