Ali‘itasi Ponder, Tim Vandeveer, Janna Plant

Defend Oahu Coalition (DOC), a nonprofit community advocate of open-space preservation at Turtle Bay Resorts (TBR), announced Jan. 10 that it has formally withdrawn from talks with TBR about the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) proposing expanded development along miles of pristine North Shore coastline. “We’ve decided to formally stop conversation with TBR because we could see that they were using the process to create the perception that we were signing off on their proposal plans,” said DOC member Aliitasi Ponder after a Thursday press conference at Honolulu City Hall. “And that is not the case,” Ponder added.

“We’re not going to hold hands with the developer all the way to an unacceptable outcome,” said Tim Vanderveer, a board member of the grassroots organization with a 5,000-member email list that has sold 40,000 “Keep the Country Country” bumper stickers to date. Instead, DOC is asking the city Department of Planning and Permitting to reject the SEIS and, as the Jan. 18 deadline for public comment looms, aims “to make better use of our time by speaking with the public, doing outreach and education as to sensible alternatives to massive development at Turtle Bay,” said Vanderveer, a former TBR “employee of the year” who resigned two and a half years ago. “We have attended TBR’s open houses and commented throughout the DSEIS process, and feel we’ve very effectively communicated what the overwhelming majority of residents feel: that the type of development they’re proposing is unsustainable and unacceptable,” Vanderveer said.

Apart from DOC, the rest of the Koolauloa–North Shore Alliance, an umbrella group of 21 member organizations such as Keep the North Shore Country and Malama Pupukea, will continue meeting with the developer, Vandeveer said. DOC, he explained, took issue with the contents of the DSEIS and the way the document was “rolled out.”

For example, the public needs to know that the owner of TBR is a cartel of multinational banks and investment firms that “gambled on a development scheme, failed, and are asking the community to pay the bill,” Vandeveer said. In the DSEIS, he pointed out, “they admit the [original] five-hotel plan is not feasible with current conditions, [yet] they left it in the plan as an implied threat, and say that the current proposed plan [for two hotels and 750 residences] is in itself a mitigation.”

Asked to comment on DOC’s departure, “I respect their decision and appreciate all the consultations they’ve participated in with us [and] all the time, insights and comments,” said Drew Stotesbury, CEO of Replay Resorts, TBR’s development partner. “This is a public process,” he added.

With regard to alternatives to development, Stotesbury said that no conservation partners had yet come forward, “but we do have a meeting tomorrow with the brokers of conservation partner opportunities. I don’t expect it to be really conclusive, but it’s exploratory.”

Comment on the DSEIS by Jan. 18 at [keepthenorthshorecountry.org].