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Public Protest Too Much For PLDC?

October 16, 2012, 5:03 PM HST · Updated October 23, 12:38 PM
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By Dave Smith

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A protest over the Public Land Development Corporation. Photo courtesy Hawaii News Now.

It looks like it will be try, … again for the Public Land Development Corporation.

The controversial new state agency designed to increase revenues from state lands using public-private partnerships is continuing its efforts to establish its administrative rules.

Following statewide hearings in August, the agency revised the guidelines and added a strategic plan.

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The PLDC’s five-member board met on Thursday and voted to take the amended rules to public hearing.

However, only one of those is planned, on Nov. 13, and that will be on Oahu.

Lloyd Haraguchi, the PLDC’s executive director, was not available for comment on why other islands were not included in the schedule.

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According to a statement from the PLDC, even though state law required only one hearing be held, the agency’s board of directors in August took the “extra step” of holding hearings statewide. The reason, it said, was to familiarize the public with the new state entity.

Now the PLDC says it will hold an additional public hearing on the amended rules, as required by law.

The rules can be viewed at hawaii.gov/dlnr/pldc, and “any member of the public may submit advance testimony via email or USPS mail by Tuesday, November 13,” the agency said.

“The PLDC remains committed to transparency, and its newly adopted strategic plan, project flowchart and rule amendments show that opportunities for public comment actually expand under the PLDC for potential projects,” the statement said.

But one can’t help but wonder if the primary reason for not taking the revised rules on the road is that the PLDC – and its director – have had their fill of the rough reception they received across the state.

The first time the agency took the draft rules out for public hearings, it encountered large and hostile crowds.

And recent public protests across the state drew hundreds of participants.

Sierra Club Chapter Director Robert Harris described the PLDC’s decision to hold only one public hearing a “new low” for the agency. He went on to say that Haraguchi was “insulting thousands of neighbor island residents by excluding them from the process.”

Much of the criticism has centered on a section of state law exempting the PLDC from “land use, zoning, and construction standards for subdivisions, development, and improvement of land.”

The mission of the PLDC has been called everything from a land-grab, to anti-democratic, to Nazi-ism.

Despite the revision of rules and addition of a strategic plan, county councils on the neighbor islands are all expected to unanimously pass resolutions seeking to abolish the Public Land Development Corp.

Nor did the changes soothe those testifying when the Hawaii County Council overwhelmingly approved its version of a resolution urging Gov. Neil Abercrombie to repeal Section 171C of Hawaii Revised Statutes — also known as Act 55, the law that created the PLDC.

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A harried Lloyd Haraguchi tries to convince the Hawaii County Council not to vote in favor of a resolution calling for the dissolution of his agency. Photo by Dave Smith.

And Haraguchi, who appeared before the council to defend his agency, has not been spared the ire, as some of the public testimony as well as some private comments have been aimed at the agency’s appointed director.

At the Oct. 3 council meeting he was called “evil,” among other things, by Puna resident Aurora Martinovich, a frequent geothermal protester.

Following the council vote, she was observed following Haraguchi as he walked to his car in a parking lot a half-block away, obviously giving him a piece of her mind.

At one point Martinovich’s comments prompted Haraguchi to pull out his phone and call the police.

While she wouldn’t name names, a Hawaii Police Department spokeswoman has confirmed that a call for assistance was made at the time and place of the confrontation between Martinovich and Haraguchi, but when officers arrived, the caller declined to initiate a criminal complaint.

Although PLDC staff has acknowledged that a police report was generated, Haraguchi has refused to discuss it.

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