Hawaii lawmakers seek to reform state land agency
HONOLULU (AP) — State Reps. Cynthia Thielen and Mele Carroll want to limit Hawaii’s power to develop public lands.
The Democrats are advocating legislation that would decrease the power of the Public Land Development Corp. The state agency was established in 2011 to develop state lands through public-private partnerships.
“(The agency) could undo protections in place for decades,” Thielen said. “The beauty of Hawaii is at stake.”
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a written statement Thursday that he supported reforming the organization.
Thielen and Carroll said their bills respond to grassroots outrage over the organization’s ability to ignore county zoning and permitting laws.
The proposed bills would force the agency to abide by county land use regulations. The agency would be also be bound by more environmental laws.
Carroll said reforming the Public Land Development Corp. is one of her main priorities this session.
According to Carroll, the public didn’t have a chance to testify about the agency’s broad powers before they were enacted. Community input is important, especially when it comes to public lands, she said.
The Hawaii State Association of Counties voted to get rid of the land development agency in October. The association is made up of all the county councils and mayors in Hawaii.
Maui City Councilman Mike Victorino said it’s important for county councils to have a say in how state lands are developed because their districts are directly affected.
“(The land agency) is taking away our home rule,” Victorino said.
During the opening ceremony of the legislative session Wednesday, community members demonstrated against the agency at the state Capitol.