By Allison Schaefers
August 15, 2017
The Kahala Hotel &Resort is withdrawing its controversial request to obtain a rare nonexclusive easement to use about an acre of public shoreline for commercial enterprises.
The Kahala Hotel notified Richard Turbin, chairman of the Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board, on Monday that it had sent a request to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources asking to withdraw a draft environmental assessment filed April 23 by the hotel’s Japanese owner, Resorttrust Hawaii LLC.
The move was “out of respect for and appreciation of the comments and concerns expressed by the community,” Kahala Hotel General Manager Gerald Glennon said in a letter to Turbin.
Glennon said the hotel wants “to engage in on-going dialogue” and hopes to provide regular updates at the Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board monthly meetings. Glennon also invited Turbin to meet with him at the property next week.
“The Kahala Hotel values its relationship with the community and is committed to developing effective ways of encouraging and welcoming community input,” Glennon said.
The Kahala Hotel did not return a call from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to clarify whether it intends to resubmit a new plan after a period of public outreach.
The Kahala Hotel had originally planned to spend $900,000 to improve a 2.65-acre parcel, including leasehold and state beach lands. In return, it wanted to expand its outdoor wedding ceremonies to three state parcels from two as well as carve out enough space to offer torch-lighting ceremonies and rides in traditional sailing outrigger canoes.
But the plan was not well received by the community.
The Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board, the Surfrider Foundation, the Sierra Club and some Oahu residents mounted protests to the hotel’s proposal. Critics said it would set a dangerous precedent by favoring commercial interests over public beach access, which is a hard-won right in Hawaii.
The hotel, its owners and consultants also were faulted for failing to notify key stakeholders before the draft environmental assessment comment period expired and electing not to provide updates to the standing-room-only crowds gathered at the June and July Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board meetings.
At the Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board’s behest, Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case sent a June 28 letter to the hotel’s representative asking that it consider refiling the draft environmental assessment to trigger an additional 30-day comment period. That request had gone unanswered until now.
“What a turnaround. I’m happy but I don’t trust it yet,” said Diamond Head resident Linda Wong, who helped organize community protests. “It’s in their best interest to push the pause button because of the breadth of community concerns. We’ve fought a hard battle and we’ll stay with it.’
Mahalo nui to Sierra Club volunteer Dave Raney for his leadership on behalf of the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group to protect beach access in the Kahala area. Dave attended many meetings and hearings, wrote letters, made phone calls, and coordinated community efforts which have resulted in the Kahala Hotel withdrawing its proposal. Mahalo also to Linda Wong, Richard Turbin, Jim Nicolay, Matt Moore, and many more community activists that have helped on this project.