Council votes against public lands agency


By TOM CALLIS

Tribune-Herald staff writer

The state’s Public Land Development Corp. is not pono, the Hawaii County Council concluded Wednesday.

The council voted unanimously to urge the abolishment of the PLDC, formed by the state Legislature in 2011 to foster development of public lands. The move follows a wave of public opposition to the agency, and the passing of a similar resolution by the Kauai County Council on Sept. 26.

The Maui County Council is also considering standing against the PLDC, council member Angel Pilago said.

The agency was created to foster public-private partnerships to develop state lands but has faced heavy criticism for exemptions it holds for land use and zoning laws.

Council member Brenda Ford, who introduced the resolution, said the PLDC strips away home rule; she fears it could lead to development that does not have a community’s interest at heart.

“It’s so broadly written that anything can be done and if the county residents don’t (support it) it doesn’t matter,” she said.

The council also heard from plenty of opponents Wednesday who believe the agency will put business interests first.

“This is the largest land fraud/grab since the overthrow of the monarchy,” said John Olson.

PLDC Executive Director Lloyd Haraguchi said the agency cannot act alone and is not out to simply generate profit from public lands.

“The PLDC was created to consider partnerships,” he said, adding those could include parks or business proposals. “We are not here to sell the aina.”

Ford said assurances from the PLDC that it will consult with county governments on projects doesn’t go far enough.

“Just because you say we will consult … means absolutely nothing when you get to the bottom of it,” she said. “If they want to do this start over and do it right,” Ford later added.

Council member Dennis Onishi said the agency can be used to develop vacant or underused land on Banyan Drive in Hilo.

Council member Pete Hoffmann said he’s not opposed to the concept, but think it needs more local control.

“I think this council and this county must send a very strong message to the PLDC that we want this done properly, we want this to be done effectively and we have to make sure that the wishes and concerns of the residents of this island are heard and acted upon in the future when other projects are recommended,” he said.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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