Thursday | February 23, 2017
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It lives! New bills carry PLDC genes

HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers are negotiating the details of proposals to allow the state to partner with private companies to develop some public land.

Earlier this week, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a law repealing the state’s existing Public Land Development Corp. in the face of overwhelming public criticism of the agency’s ability to sidestep county zoning and permitting regulations.

Lawmakers are hoping to move forward with more cautious bills this year suggesting a limited number of projects. Advocates hope the public will see that the benefits of raising revenue outweigh their fears about unbridled development. They emphasize that the new proposals don’t have exemptions from development rules.

But critics worry that the proposals are under-the-table attempts to keep the PLDC alive in some form.

A committee of negotiators plans met Thursday to debate whether to advance a plan to develop underused school lands. House and Senate lawmakers have disagreed about the number of projects that should be allowed and up to what period of time.

Another committee met Thursday to consider creating an agency called the Public-Private Partnership Authority. It would initiate three pilot projects, including building a film studio and a main street project in Wahiawa.

The bill creating the agency was originally introduced to encourage the growth of high technology industries. After the proposal passed the House, senators added language creating the organization.

Lawmakers in both negotiating committees put off voting until Friday. Committees must agree on one version of each bill by Friday in order for the proposals to advance.