Monday Hearing Set For State Development Agency

August 9, 2012, 5:58 PM HST (Updated August 9, 2012, 5:59 PM)
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The first public hearing on rule-making for a controversial new state agency will be held Monday in Hilo.

The state Legislature created the Public Land Development Corp. in 2011 to develop public-private partnerships to maximize the use of state lands and generate revenues.

Monday’s meeting at the Waiakea High School cafeteria in Hilo will be the first for the PLDC as it establishes its operating rules. Another meeting will be held Tuesday  at the Konawaena High School cafeteria in Kealakekua. Both meetings are scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m.

The agency’s executive director, Lloyd Haraguchi, has proposed the agency assume control of three parcels of land – including one on the Big Island – from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported recently.

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Volcano Island Honey Co., which is currently leasing nine acres of state land near Puako, would like to expand its lease to 545 acres but has been unable to obtain approval from the Board of Land and Natural Resources. Richard Spiegel, the company’s owner, told the PLDC board of directors at a July meeting that he is concerned about private development in the kiawe forest where his bees collect pollen.

Haraguchi told board members that the project is a worthwhile pursuit even if a bigger lease won’t mean significant revenues for the state, the Star-Advertiser reported.

Two other two potential PLDC projects are on Oahu: the development of farms on state land on the Ewa plain and restructuring of the lease held by the owner of the Olomana Golf Links.

If the board decides to pursue the projects it would then seek approval from the BLNR. If the land board agrees, the projects would go back to the PLDC board for a final decision.

Representatives of the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter are keeping a close eye on the PLDC, partly because it is not bound by many land-use and zoning regulations and partly because it is proposing actions before its operating rules are established.

The chapter’s president, Robert Harris, recently sent out an email to its members encouraging them to speak out at the upcoming hearings on the rules which he called “fundamentally flawed.”

The PLDC board consists of five members, including representatives of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; the Department of Budget and Finance; and the Department of Land and Natural Resources. A fourth member is appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives and the fifth is appointed by the Senate president.

“The upcoming public hearings are an opportunity to inform the public about the PLDC’s mission, objectives and priorities,” Haraguch said in a statement issued today by the DLNR. “We welcome public participation and encourage individuals to utilize this opportunity.”

The PLDC already controls 343 acres of land previously controlled by the DLNR around the Honokohau Boat Harbor in Kona. The transfer was the result of the Legislature’s passage this year of House Bill 2398, which was signed into law as Act 282 by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The PLDC is considering expanding the harbor and establishing residential and commercial development there.

About a decade ago, the state picked Atlanta-based Jacoby Development to develop a $2.2 billion waterfront resort on 550 acres of land at Honokohau owned by the DLNR and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.Jacoby later backed out of the project, saying that land-use and environmental regulations made the project unfeasible.

During the past legislative session, native Hawaiian and environmental groups expressed strong opposition to the bill giving control of the land to the PLDC.

During the past session the Legislature also considered establishing an improvement district patterned after the PLDC to develop Hilo’s Banyan Drive area. The bill died, however, partly because critics said the same results could be achieved by the already existing PLDC.

 

 

 

 

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