HONOLULU - "Ensuring that the residents of Hawaii directly benefit from the thousands of acres they own as public lands throughout the state, and putting in place 21st century partnership strategies to protect and appropriately steward these lands now and for future generations - these are the reasons I voted for the Public Land Development Corporation, Act 55, which was passed by the 2011 Legislature," said District 1 (Hawaii Island) Sen. Malama Solomon.
But implementation of Act 55 has drawn a wave of concern during recent statewide public hearings on PLDC draft Administrative Rules.
At a recent hearing concerning use of state lands near Puunene, Maui residents voiced concern that Section 19 of Act 55 exempts the PLDC from laws relating to land use and zoning. According to the agency, "Those activities must be coordinated with the county planning departments and the county land use plans, policies and ordinances."
“It is my hope and vision that PLDC creates a vehicle to replicate what I call ‘The Yosemite Model,’ which incorporates the National Park Mission Statement, protecting the great beauty and environmental integrity of this national treasure while providing recreational choices, employment and income generation to support essential health and safety services and care-taking,” said Sen. Malama Solomon.
"I am sorely disappointed that there is so much misinformation, but I also understand the concern. Our public lands are a treasure that must be protected," Solomon commented.
"Listening to the concerns raised, the governor and the PLDC have agreed to work with the State Senate and House Committees on Water/Land and prepare a strategic plan that clarifies the vision, mission, goals and values of the PLDC, putting public benefits as the top priority," she continued.
"Our state is very unique in the nation. The state owns and manages most of the public lands, while in other states, the federal government is the owner and manager. This legislation is patterned after the Federal National Park Mission Statement, which is to conserve the scenery, the natural and historic objects and to provide for the public's enjoyment of these features in a manner that will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
Solomon supported the legislation that created the PLDC as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Housing.
"Our committee and others in both the House and Senate spent a great deal of time in public hearings drafting this legislation to be sure environmental, cultural and sunshine laws and regulations were honored, and that the end product really would put public interest first," Sen. Solomon said.
PLDC projects must comply with Environmental Impact Statement, historic preservation, Hawaii Sunshine Law, prohibition on sale of ceded lands and other guidelines (go to manage.hawaii.gov/gov/faq/public-land-development-corporation-pldc.)
PLDC-initiated partnerships are supposed to improve communities, create jobs and expand public benefit.
"For some, partnerships are a new way of doing business, but in today's economic climate, partnerships are the only way we can effectively improve public benefit and make things happen without raising taxes or fees," said Solomon.
The agreement by the governor and PLDC to prepare a strategic plan was announced in a letter Sen. Solomon wrote to Kalbert Young, chair of the Public Land Development Corporation, specifically in response to concerns expressed at statewide public hearings regarding the intention of the PLDC's purpose and mission.