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Governor: Fix public-lands law or consider scrapping it

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  • 2012 August 29 CTY - Some 25 or so members of hotel union Local 5 lined Beretania Street near Punchbowl on Wedesday afternoon to show their oppostion to the Public Land Development Corporation. Here

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said today that he would consider a repeal of the controversial Public Land Development Corp. if the state Legislature is unable to adjust the law to satisfy public concerns.

“With many others, I believe in the legislative intent of Act 55 which has the potential to support using public lands for public purposes that otherwise will not have sufficient funding,” the governor said in a statement. “However, after reviewing the information compiled by the DLNR and suggested rule and regulation proposals, I believe the administrative rules process may not be able to reconcile existing support with opposing views to the extent necessary to satisfy outstanding concerns.

“The Hawaii State Legislature may need to adjust Act 55 so that its good intention can be implemented appropriate to the goals of this law.  Public understanding and support are essential. If the Legislature cannot achieve this outcome, the possibility of repeal will ensue. I will take that outcome into consideration but we cannot walk away, should that occur, without a solution that moves us forward.

“As always, we will continue to work closely with the Legislature. We need to work together to achieve what is best for Hawaii.”

Abercrombie’s advisors have cautioned privately that the governor’s priorities, such as developing underutilized public school land to generate money to modernize schools for the 21st century, could be at risk as long as the debate is muddied by the PLDC.

The governor is expected to urge state lawmakers to focus on redevelopment opportunities at public schools, sources say. Lawmakers are discussing an education facilities trust that could lease public school land for commercial development, as well as a pilot project at a few school sites to test the concept.

The PLDC, the development arm of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, was given broad exemptions from land use, planning and zoning laws as incentives to attract private developers interested in projects on underused state land. But the new corporation has not developed a single project — and has yet to adopt administrative rules — after vehement protests from environmental, labor and some Native Hawaiian interests.

Abercrombie had defended the PLDC last year after the protests over administrative rules, dismissing some of the more vocal opponents as the “usual suspects” who wanted to be the arbiters of state development. At one point, the governor said he would veto a repeal attempt.

But feedback from his advisors, and the steady opposition from environmental, labor and Hawaiian groups, led the governor in late November to urge the PLDC to slow down the administrative rules process. He said the future of the PLDC would be up to the Legislature, which had overwhelmingly supported the law in 2011.

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