Senate Committee Approves School Land Development
Yesterday the Senate Education Committee approved a bill that would create a pilot program to redevelop public school lands through public-private partnerships.
House Bill 865 has the support of Governor Neil Abercrombie, and is meant to raise funds for the repair and maintenance of Hawaii public schools, which face decaying infrastructure.
Although the bill doesn’t specifically name any proposals, proponents cite the University of Hawaii’s success in utilizing private companies on-campus to generate revenue.
The University’s Manoa campus mixes student facilities with private sector businesses like Ba-le Sandwich Shop and Jamba Juice.
At the University of Hawaii at Hilo, a new student housing complex under construction will feature a campus-related commercial center. According to UH officials, the initiative will be “planned and developed by the private sector.”
Opponents of the bill fear runaway construction on public school lands, comparing it to the much-maligned Public Land Development Corporation, which could be repealed this session.
The PLDC was criticized for what opponents said was an ability to bypass county zoning rules.
House Bill 865 was amended by the committee to reflect the Senate version of the bill, which limits development to two projects over the course of three years.
Supporters hope that a limited ‘pilot program’ would allow the DOE to demonstrate the usefulness of public-private partnerships on school lands, and generate public trust.
Big Island Senator Russell Ruderman voted in favor of the bill, along with three other lawmakers. Senator Sam Slom of Oahu voted against it.
The proposal now moves on to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.