Thirty Meter Telescope Sublease Gets Tentative Approval

June 27, 2014, 5:40 PM HST (Updated June 27, 2014, 5:42 PM)
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A sublease for the Thirty Meter Telescope was tentatively approved today by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, pending the result of challenges by opponents.

Two individuals, Kalani Flores and Dan Purcell, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have asked the board for a contested case hearing on the approval.

This was at least the second time opponents of the project have requested the quasi-judicial proceedings.

A contested case hearing was begun in 2011 after the land board issued a conservation district use permit for the observatory. It was completed in November 2012 when a hearings officer rejected the opponents’ arguments, and the land board issued the CDUP in April 2013.

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The matter of the sublease first came before the land board two weeks ago, but was deferred to give the University of Hawaii, which holds the master lease on the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, time to respond to legal issues.

A simulation of how the Thirty Meter Telescope (arrow) would look near the summit of Mauna Kea through a telephoto lens from Waimea. Source: final environmental impact statement, Thirty Meter Telescope Project.

A simulation of how the Thirty Meter Telescope (arrow) would look near the summit of Mauna Kea through a telephoto lens from Waimea. Source: final environmental impact statement, Thirty Meter Telescope Project.

During a meeting today in Honolulu, the university’s lawyers made a presentation before the board on several matters, including the proposed rent to be paid by the TMT, historic preservation matters and whether the sublease from UH was allowable under state law.

Flores and Purcell initially asked for the hearing at that time. Board members today denied that request without prejudice, meaning it could be taken up again.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources said the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has since also requested a contested case hearing on the sublease. She said the requests will be considered by board members at a future meeting.

In addition to the previous contested case hearing, the TMT project has also withstood a lawsuit appealing the April 2013 issuance of the conservation district permit. A Circuit Court judge rejected that appeal in April.

The university’s Board of Regents gave its approval of the sublease in February.

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