LOS ANGELES — A working group established by Hawaii's legislature has recommended the governor include a general obligation bond request for $40 million in his supplemental budget to conserve property at Turtle Bay on Oahu's North Shore.
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is scheduled to release his supplemental budget for fiscal 2014-15 on Monday. His office wouldn't confirm if the bond request will be included in the governor's budget.
The bond request would be included in the budget for the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The Hawaii governor drafts a biennial budget every odd-numbered year and creates a supplemental budget with adjustments for that coming year on even-numbered years.
Abercrombie announced Dec. 6 that the state ended fiscal 2013 with an $844 million budget surplus.
The working group was established after the state legislature passed a resolution authored by Hawaii Sen. Clayton Hee, a Democrat, asking Abercrombie to form the group to help resolve the dispute over expansion plans by the owners of the 858-acre Turtle Bay Resort.
"The reason I introduced the legislation is the expansion plans have been a bone of contention for the residents of the North Shore of Oahu," said Hee, whose district includes the resort. "The area proposed for development is the only remaining area of contiguous undeveloped agricultural land."
Environmental groups have been battling with owners of the Turtle Bay Resort for five years over the proposed plan.
The plan had been whittled down to two hotels and one building for condos or time-shares after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in April that the resort needed to conduct a new environmental impact statement.
Under the working group's proposal, released on Nov. 30, the state would issue $40 million in GO bonds to pay for a conservation easement to preserve the property slated for development, because the resort owners are unwilling to sell the land in a fee purchase, according to the report. The resort owners would like to be able to continue to own the land to use for recreational activities.
The dispute is over 236 acres of undeveloped land on the resort's 858 acres.
An appraiser has estimated the value of the easement at between $31.3 million and $38.3 million, according to the working group's report.
The proposal would not put an end to Turtle Bay's ability to expand the resort, it would just contain it to the current footprint, Hee said.
Hee finds it compelling that Hotel Workers Union No. 5, which represents the people who work at the Turtle Bay Resort, are opposed to the expansion.
"They have concluded the expansion would not lead to more jobs, because the expansion would be time shares," Hee said.