Proposed rules to govern the recently created Public Lands Development Corp. are “fundamentally flawed,” Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter officials said in an email sent to members last month.
The state Legislature in 2011 created the corporation to help develop — and increase revenue from — state lands. Hawaii Island residents have two chances this month to weigh in on the proposed rules that will govern the agency, 6 p.m. Aug. 20 at Waiakea High School in Hilo and 6 p.m. Aug. 21 at Konawaena High School.
Robert Harris, Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter director, said the organization had basic philosophical differences with the concept of a Public Lands Development Corp., as well as concerns about the proposed rules.
“They have to ensure the community’s voice is heard,” Harris said. “They have to ensure pristine, cultural resources are protected.”
The rules, as written, don’t require hearings on the Big Island, for example, if the PLDC wants to do a project on the island, Harris said. Nor would the corporation’s governing board be required to get the county’s input on any proposal, he added.
“Right now, they can essentially ignore the county,” Harris said.
When legislators were first discussing creating the corporation, people in support made vague promises that no “bad projects” would be approved, Harris said. The rules don’t spell out what kind of projects the corporation may pursue, nor do the rules give specific criteria for approving projects, he said. That is another cause for worry, he added.
In general, the Sierra Club’s members question the idea behind the PLDC.
“We have deep concerns about the Public Lands Development Corp. and the (idea) that our public land is best used if it’s developed,” Harris said.
The rules require, among other things, for counties to bear the cost of improvements in areas the corporation deems assessment areas, and for county water supply boards to bear the cost of water improvements. The rules would allow the corporation to require “abutting property owners at their expense to construct, maintain and repair sidewalks and curbs in front of the abutting property.”
If the PLDC requires utility lines to be moved, neighboring property owners must then pay for new connections to the lines.
The proposed rules changes are available at hawaii.gov/dlnr/pldc/rules. The public may request a written copy of the rules by writing to the PLDC at PO Box 2359, Honolulu, Hawaii 96804. People who cannot attend the public hearings may email comments to email@example.com or mail them to the above address. Comments must be submitted or postmarked by Sept. 14.