PLDC hearing evokes calls for repeal

Published  7:01 PM HST Nov 13, 2012
PLDC Hearing Overflow Crowd 11_13_12
HONOLULU -

A hearing Tuesday to determine administrative rules for the Public Land Development Corporation turned into a call for repeal, as an overflow crowd descended upon a tiny board room at the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"You just can't rip off the people's public resources and get away with it," said Keiko Bonk, a former Hawaii County councilwoman and co-founder of Hawaii's Green Party.

A majority of those who testified during the nearly four-hour hearing spoke out against the PLDC and its ability to bypass state and county zoning laws.  The state-run corporation was created during the 2011 legislative session under Act 55.

Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club's Hawaii chapter, said proposed amendments to the PLDC's administrative rules were routinely shot down by the five -member board. He said incorporating the Sierra Club's suggestions would have helped safeguard critical public lands.

 "If anything the rules are going in the opposite direction," said Harris.  So, if you want to approve a project that destroys a thousand acres of ohia forest, you can. If you want to do a project that destroys a beach, you can."

A handful of testifiers spoke in support of the PLDC, which envisions creating public-private partnerships to push through projects straddled by a lack of funds, or those that have been bogged down by regulatory hurdles.

"The state should look at everything to drive our economy forward, especially when it can help the people of this state," said Dean Okimoto, president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.

Although Olelo streamed Tuesday's hearing live on its website, several neighbor island residents expressed their displeasure at being forced to travel to Oahu to testify.  Maui resident Mahina Martin said PLDC Executive Director Lloyd Haraguchi had promised to hold another round of hearings before administrative rules are adopted.   

"I cannot begin to express the anger of our communities of being left out of direct dialogue with the PLDC through a hearing such as this," said Martin.

"This is like a Saturday Night Live (skit) to have this in this tiny room with limited seating," added Karlos DeTreaux, a host for KKCR radio on Kauai.  "Everyone in the state should be allowed to speak until time is up."

PLDC opponents also lambasted board members about an apparent lack of dialogue regarding public hearings for proposed developments.  Under current draft rules, only one public hearing is required before the PLDC decides on a particular project.

However, DLNR Director William Aila told KITV4 there would be multiple hearings on any proposed PLDC development at the county level, or before the state land board. Aila is one of the five board members of the PLDC board.

"There's an overall process that has to be accommodated before anything can go through the final PLDC board," said Aila.  "In that process, there are many places that other agencies have requirements for public hearings." 

Aila added that the PLDC board would consider conducting another round of public hearings on the neighbor islands before draft administrative rules are forwarded to the state Attorney General's Office for review.  

"It was a reoccurring theme amongst many of the testifiers, and we will go back and we will reconsider that stance," he said.

Once the PLDC's draft administrative rules are reviewed by the AG's office, they are then forwarded to the Small Business Regulatory Review Board.  The final step is a review by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who can order further revisions, or accept the rules as they are written.

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