665+ acres on North Shore to be protected from development

A conservation easement will protect more than 665 acres of land at Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced Thursday.

The easement covers nearly 79 percent of the open space land makai of Kamehameha Hwy. Portions of the land had previously been planned for development.

The easement is designed to permanently limit use of the land to protect the area’s ecological and recreational systems by fostering the restoration of critical marine and land ecosystems, allowing continued public access to beaches and more than five miles of coastal hiking trails, and opening the area for traditional native Hawaiian cultural practices.

“Our tenure began four years ago and, from the start, we sought opportunities to understand and balance community interests,” said Drew Stotesbury, CEO of Turtle Bay Resort. “This led to scaling back the resort’s expansion plan by more than 60 percent and increasing oceanfront setbacks by 50 to 300 percent.”

“The shoreline from Kahuku Point to Kawela Bay represents one of the most beautiful and pristine areas on all of Oahu,” said state Sen. Clayton Hee. “As elected leaders, we have a profound and solemn duty and responsibility to preserve and protect this shoreline for future generations just as our ancestors did before us.”

The easement comes via a $48.5 million agreement with the state, city, The Trust for Public Land and Turtle Bay Resort, who owns the land. The state will provide $40 million, the city will provide $5 million, and The Trust for Public land will provide $3.5 million.

Turtle Bay Resort will continue to own, use and hold title to the land, but it and future owners will be bound by the easement’s restrictions.

Turtle Bay Resort retains rights to develop two new hotel sites near the existing hotel and one resort residential site on the Kahuku side of its property. The two hotels would generate an estimated 3,500 jobs during construction and, once completed, an estimated 700-plus permanent new jobs on the resort grounds and an additional 750 permanent indirect jobs within the community.

The easement complements a similar agreement Turtle Bay Resort has secured to protect 469 acres of agricultural-zoned open space land located mauka of Kamehameha Hwy.

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