Hawaii Counties Association Seeks Repeal of PLDC
By Wendy Osher
The Hawai’i State Association of Counties has voted to approve a resolution requesting a repeal of Act 55, the legislation that led to the creation of the Public Land Development Corporation.
HSCA President Mel Rapozo said the agency was flooded with testimony from hundreds of residents who are opposed to Act 55, citing concerns over the PLDC’s mission to create revenue from public lands.
Arguments raised by opponents included criticism over what they called “vague” and “broad” language, exemptions extended to the entity, and the placement of public trust decisions in the hands of a select few.
“The amount of emails received in just 72 hours was astounding,” said Rapozo. “As a result, at our monthly meeting on Friday, October 12, 2012, HSAC members voted to approve a resolution that mirrors the Kaua‘i County Council’s resolution requesting a repeal of Act 55, which had passed unanimously earlier this month, be submitted to each of Hawaii’s four county councils for approval.”
Opponents have also expressed concerns over the PLDC’s decision to hold a single statewide public hearing on its proposed rules. The meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13 at 10:30 am in Honolulu at DLNR’s board conference room.
Maui opponent Mahina Martin called the meeting a “slap in the face,” saying, “This kind of behavior by the PLDC does absolutely nothing at all towards reassuring the public, especially those on the neighbor islands and residents of Oahu who cannot attend because it may be a work day for them.”
The Sierra Club of Hawaii also issued a statement calling it an “insult” to the thousands of neighbor island residents who they say would be excluded from the process.
“In addition, the decision to hold a hearing in the middle of a workday, when most people cannot attend the hearing, reflects a deliberate intent to ignore the public’s voice,” the agency said in a press release on Tuesday.
Martin said the recent action underscores that the PDLC does not “genuinely understand the value of meaningful community engagement.” She continued saying, “And yet, the PLDC, its supporters and advocates want all of Hawaii – which obviously should include all islands – to simply trust their leadership and decision-making abilities as it moves towards partnerships with private entities in commercializing our public lands.”
Those who support the PLDC and its creation say it is hoped that residents benefit from the thousands of acres held in the public trust.
Hawai’i Island Senator Malama Solomon who voted in favor of the entity released a statement following a series of public hearings saying:
“Insuring that the residents of Hawai’i directly benefit from the thousands of acres they own as public lands throughout the state – and putting in place 21st century partnership strategies to protect and appropriately steward these lands now and for future generations – these are the reasons I voted for the Public Land Development Corporation – Act 55, which was passed by the 2011 Legislature.”
The notice of the public hearing stated that, “Proposed adoption of a new Chapter 13-302, HAR, Public Land Development Program sets forth a procedure for the corporation to initiate, by itself or with qualified persons, or enter into cooperative agreements with qualified persons for the development or financing of projects that make optimal use of public land for the economic, environmental, and social benefit of the people of Hawaii.”
Approval by all four councils will mean that HSAC will include the proposal in its 2013 legislative package, its own unified effort towards a repeal of Act 55.
Rapozo said the Kaua‘i County Council, Hawai‘i County Council, and Maui County Council are expected to approve the HSAC proposal since both the Kaua‘i County Council and Hawai‘i County Council have already unanimously passed resolutions seeking a repeal of Act 55 by the state Legislature.
According to Rapozo, the Maui County Council has a similar resolution making its way through the Council’s Policy Committee, that he said is expected to pass as well. The Honolulu City Council has not yet placed the issue on a council meeting agenda.
“The Councils of Kauai, Big Island, and Maui County have heard our communities’ concerns and once the Honolulu City Council has an opportunity to place it on their agenda and review it to their satisfaction, we will know if a repeal will become part of our legislative package for the upcoming session,” Rapozo said.
Individuals that are unable to attend the public hearing, or those who wish to present additional comments may email comments to [email protected] or postmark written testimony by Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012.
Copies of the proposed rule changes are available online at http://hawaii.gov/dlnr/pldc/rules. Copies for public review are available Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., at No. 1 Capitol District, 250 S. Hotel St., Room 501, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
The public may make a written request for a hard copy by indicating a mailing address in correspondence sent to the PLDC address in the preceding paragraph. Hard copies of the proposed administrative rules are available for a fee.