The Public Land Development Corp. is continuing to attract flak, even as its five-member appointed Board and Gov. Abercrombie take steps to improve its image in the community.
At the behest of the governor, the PLDC developed a strategic plan, which states the Board shall comply with the state’s environmental, historic preservation, labor and open governance “sunshine” laws, as well as a law prohibiting the sale of so-called “ceded lands.” The plan further states the agency will pay the Office of Hawaiian Affairs a portion of revenues derived from those lands, and will avoid developing acreage designated as Important Agricultural Lands.
The agency also recently released its revised draft administrative rules, which reflect “significant changes” made in response to concerns about Hawaiian sovereignty, ceded and culturally sensitive lands, environmental safeguards and community input that were raised at hearings around the state, Director Lloyd Haraguchi wrote in an email to the Weekly. However, he added, “the majority of public comments received focused on issues other than the PLDC’s draft administrative rules.” .
The Sierra Club released a statement slamming the decision to conduct just one hearing on the revised rules–Nov. 13, in Honolulu–as “insulting thousands of neighbor island residents by excluding them from the process.” But Haraguchi replied that just one hearing is required by law.
The Club also noted the strategic plan has no mandatory goals and “can be ignored whenever the PLDC chooses to do so.” David Frankel, an attorney with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., dismissed the plan as “an empty gesture,” saying it does not carry the weight of law.
“Individuals and groups have gone to great lengths to suggest improvements to the draft rules,” the Sierra Club statement continued. “Suggestions like requiring that proposed projects not cause significant, adverse environmental harm, or preventing corrupt, private developers from partnering with the PLDC, have been ignored.”
Haraguchi released a statement saying that many people have “misconceptions” about what is allowed under Act 55. “The PLDC is committed to working with county zoning and permitting requirements to ensure that its projects conform to county guidelines.”
Many citizens, however, are continuing to demand a repeal of Act 55. That call has won the support of the Kauai and Hawaii County Councils, as well as Senate President Shan Tsutsui, who plans to introduce one bill repealing the law and another narrowing its scope.
Abercrombie issued a statement saying that “calls for repeal are not productive, particularly before projects have even been identified.” The Govenor, meanwhile, has convened a panel to inventory “underutilized” DOE property that could be redeveloped under the PLDC–for example, at Jefferson Elementary School in Waikiki.