State Senator Malama Solomon (current Senate (District 1, Waimea, Hamakua, North Hilo, Rural South Hilo and Hilo), one of the chief proponents of the Public Lands Development Corporation, which was created by Act 55 in the State Legislature last year, has weighed in on controversy surrounding the PLDC.
At recent public hearings around the state, residents have expressed concern about provisions of Act 55 that say that any development by the Public Lands Development Corporation will be exempt from state and county mandates regarding development. Residents have expressed concern that the State will ignore Community Development Plans, Zoning Laws, and more. Solomon says that although Section 19 of Act 55 exempts the PLDC from laws relating to land use and zoning, those activities must be coordinated with the county planning departments and the county land use plans, policies and ordinances. It’s not clear how such coordination will take place, or the degree to which the PLDC will comply with local regulations. But Solomon says that’s all part of what must be worked out as the plan is developed.
One reason that the PLDC was created is what has happened to the lands around Honokohau Harbor and the Kona International Airport—state lands that could be used to bring in businesses and projects that would create jobs, but which the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and the State Department of Transportation have not developed.
The mission of the PLDC is to create and facilitate partnerships between state and county agencies, businesses, non-profits, and community groups to improve Hawai‘i’s communities, create jobs and expand public benefit through stewardship and responsible use of land resources.
Solomon explained why she voted for Act 55: “Insuring that the residents of Hawai’i 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. ”
“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. 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,” said Sen. Solomon.
Solomon says the legislation was 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.
“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.
“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 caretaking.”
Solomon says all PLDC project must comply with EIS (HRS 343), Historic Preservation (HRS 6E), Hawai’i Sunshine Law (HRS 92), Prohibition on sale of ceded lands (HRS 171-64.7), and Wage Rate Schedule (HRS 104). There’s a laundry list of guidelines that delineates precautions imposed to insure that PLDC-initiated partnerships “improve our communities, create jobs, and expand public benefit.”
The agreement by the Governor and PLDC to prepare a PLDC Strategic Plan was announced in a letter Sen. Solomon wrote to Kalbert Young, Chair of the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC), specifically in response to concerns expressed at statewide public hearings regarding the intention of the PLDC’s purpose and mission.
“Concerns raised related to Native Hawaiian land rights seriously got my attention,” said Sen. Solomon, who has been at the forefront of protection of Hawaiian lands and rights issues for nearly 30 years, beginning with serving as one of the first elected Trustees Office of Hawaiian Affairs.