By ERIN MILLER
Overwhelming testimony in support of a resolution asking the state to abolish the Public Land Development Corp. preceded the Hawaii County Council’s Planning Committee unanimous favorable vote on the measure Tuesday morning.
Donald Wessels, testifying in Hilo, said the PLDC is usurping the counties’ authority.
“The Public Land Development Corp. is legalized theft,” Wessels said. “Send a message to the state that you, the elected representatives of the County of Hawaii, will not sit still while the State of Hawaii gives away your authority.”
Other testifiers questioned the governor’s and legislators’ motives in approving the measures creating the PLDC. One testifier noted only Puna Rep. Faye Hanohano, among all of Hawaii Island’s legislators, opposed the measures.
“What really concerns me is the nontransparency of the thing,” Patricia Shaner Knudsen said in Kona. “We won’t see the public hearings. Perhaps we should. This is a very, very important issue for the state, for the island in particular.”
No one testified against the resolution. More than 25 people testified in support.
Island residents called the PLDC evil, the efforts behind it a land grab, and warned about the negative impacts the agency will have on counties’ home rule.
South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford, who introduced the resolution, which asks the Legislature to repeal Act 55, also touched on the danger the act presents to the counties.
“As a person who has fought lawsuit by lawsuit just to get the rules on the books enforced, there would be 20 years of progress eradicated by this,” Ford added.
Hawaii County is leading the state in calling for the repeal, North Kona Councilman Angel Pilago said. Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann added that he and some other council members were concerned when the Legislature first approved the bill, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed it into law.
Those officials cautioned county officials to hold off on taking any action until the rules were written, Hoffmann said. That has now happened, and at a series of recent public meetings, the Hawaii residents have roundly criticized the rules, which allow exemptions to many environmental reviews and county zoning laws, among other exemptions.
“Those rules seem to have been placed on the table and they’re every bit as potentially devastating as the worst case thought,” Hoffmann said. “I am not quite certain what generated this particular type of legislation, nor do I understand where our state representatives were.”
Ford said she asked two West Hawaii representatives on Sunday whether they would support a repeal. Both — Sen. Josh Green, D-North and South Kona, North and South Kohala, and Rep. Denny Coffmann, D-Keauhou, Kailua-Kona, Honokohau — said they would.
The resolution now goes to the full council for approval.
Emai Erin Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.