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Turtle Bay preservation deal survives scare at Legislature

    In this 2008 file photo

The state House Water and Land Committee passed a bill Wednesday that gives more time to complete a taxpayer-financed deal to protect much of Oahu’s Turtle Bay Resort from development.

The committee voted 9-0 to advance Senate Bill 284, which became an urgent measure in February after state officials realized they couldn’t meet a June 30 deadline to pay the owner of the North Shore resort around $40 million for a conservation easement that prevents development on about 665 acres while also opening up much of the area to additional public use.

State officials would have till Dec. 31 to complete the deal under the amended bill, a timetable with which all parties involved are comfortable.

The deadline extension provision was inserted into an unrelated bill last month without any public hearing. That gave some lawmakers pause, and the House Tourism Committee decided to defer the bill last week, putting it in danger of dying.

SB 284 is now headed to the House Finance Committee. If passed by that committee and the full House, the bill would still need to be agreed upon in a House-Senate conference committee before a vote by all lawmakers.

Under the proposed conservation easement, 650 homes approved for development, including 225 fronting Kawela Bay, would not be built. And no development would happen on about 665 acres, including 70 acres fronting Kawela Bay and almost 600 acres largely occupied by Turtle Bay’s two golf courses.

The resort still would be permitted to add two hotels with a combined 625 rooms, and 100 homes on about 150 acres fronting the ocean on opposing sides of the existing 443-room Turtle Bay hotel.

The easement, which would last in perpetuity, was seen as a compromise over the resort’s larger and preferred expansion plan, which had been opposed by several community groups.

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