Last year, the Turtle Bay Resort conservation easement seemed like a done deal.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced the $48.5 million agreement to preserve 665 acres on the North Shore in perpetuity to much fanfare. It was a victory for environmentalists after decades of efforts to curb development in the rural area.
But now that agreement is at risk, according to Doug Cole, executive director of the North Shore Community Land Trust, who has been part of the negotiations to secure the easement.
House Tourism Committee Chairman Tom Brower deferred a bill last week that sought to extend the funding for the easement for another year.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs bill to create a conservation easement on 665 acres at Turtle Bay Resort.
Courtesy of the Office of the Governor
The funding will expire at the end of June, but negotiations aren’t complete yet. The deal has taken longer than expected to implement due to delays caused by lawsuits, the change in administration, and the time it takes to obtain appraisals and work out the details of the agreement.
“If the time period that they have to issue these revenue bonds is not extended, then the transaction will probably fail,” Cole said. “The whole project is in jeopardy.”
Brower said Monday that he decided to defer the bill because it appeared that there wasn’t enough support in the committee for it to pass. He is working with Cole and other advocates to see if House Speaker Joseph Souki can send the bill to another committee (known as a re-referral) in order to keep the measure alive.
The representative from Waikiki said committee members’ concerns about the bill included the use of hotel tax revenue to finance it, the cost of the easement and the fact that the state would not own the land outright.
“There’s not as much support as maybe this measure had a year ago,” Brower said, noting that last year’s process had been rushed.
Brower noted that he hopes to have more information by the end of the day Monday on whether the measure has any chance of proceeding this session.