Over the past few months, the Land Board has been transferring pieces of land on O`ahu – large and small – to the state Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC). Unlike the Land Board, the ADC is free from requirements to dispose of leases via public auction or to set rent at market value.
At its June 14 meeting, the Land Board approved the transfer of 3.6 acres in Honouliuli that are currently held by tenants who run a rendering plant and a fish food plant.
The ADC is interested in the fish food plant, run by Island Commodities Corporation, “for a growing aquaculture industry in the state,” a Department of Land and Natural Resources Land Division report states.
On July 11, the Land Board withdrew about 91 acres from a parcel in `Ewa, O`ahu, set aside two years ago to the Department of Agriculture. At the department’s request, the Land Board transferred the land to the ADC, which is interested in using it for renewable energy development, a Land Division report states.
At its July 25 meeting, the Land Division recommended transferring 147 acres of Conservation and Agricultural land in Mokuleia, O`ahu, to the ADC. A portion of the land is leased to Hawai`i Fish Company, Inc. According to the staff report, the ADC plans to issue a direct lease to the company once the transfer is completed. The board had not decided on the matter by press time.
Land Board Gets Influx
Of New – and Old – Members
The Board of Land and Natural Resources is one of the most powerful boards in the state. But one of its newest members apparently didn’t even want to be on it, not at first.
The way it’s supposed to go, interested people submit applications for a vacant spot on the Land Board and a selection committee forwards a list of the three most qualified to the governor. The governor picks one candidate who must then be confirmed by the Senate.
According to Hawaii island attorney Stanley Roehrig, it didn’t happen quite that way for him. Roehrig said at his first meeting as a Land Board member, “I would not have volunteered. The governor asked me to be on the Land Board.” And he did not exactly jump at the chance.
“I had to chew on it a while,” especially after the new financial disclosure bill became law, he said. “I’ll try to do my best to contribute to this,” he continued.
He added that he’s told the friends who’d also encouraged him to join the Land Board that he’s not going to show them any favoritism.
“I’m going to do it in the public interest. … Some of you will tune me up in due course and I accept that,” he said.
Later in the meeting, however, during discussion of a University of Hawai`i study of buoys in Hilo Bay and Kona, Roehrig seemed to show at least some favoritism to a member of the public, Glenn Shiroma, who had submitted testimony critical of the DLNR’s handling of the matter.
Roehrig asked Kevin Yim of the DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation what he thought of Shiroma’s testimony. Yim did not seem particularly concerned about any of the points Shiroma had made.
Roehrig then went on to point out that Shiroma was “a very nice guy,” albeit “very uptight.” Roehrig added that he knows Shiroma’s family well. “I just want you to know that,” he said.
Yim conceded that Shiroma was “a very intelligent man,” but sometimes “ goes overboard” with his comments.
To this, Roehrig said, “We’re in public service. We’re supposed to be polite and professional. If we get personal with everybody who disagrees with us, I don’t think that’s right. … All his whole family used to campaign for me when I was a legislator. … I have a lot of aloha for his family.”
Land Board chair William Aila assured Roehrig that his staff had has always been professional with Shiroma.
Roehrig replaces Robert Pacheco as the board member representing the Big Island. He has recently been joined by three more new members. O`ahu board member Reed Kishinami, who chose to leave the board rather than file the newly required financial disclosures, is being replaced by Ulalia Woodside, a former member of the DLNR’s Natural Area Reserves System Commission. She is also the member designated to represent Hawaiian cultural interests.
At-large member Wesley Furtado, who serves as vice president of the ILWU, also resigned after the financial disclosure law went into effect. His spot as well as another at-large vacancy will be filled by Vernon Char and Christopher Yuen, both of whom are attorneys.
Yuen previously served on the Land Board from 1990 to 1998 as the Hawai`i island representative.
TMT Sublease Wins
Thirty-Meter-Telescope opponent Kalani Flores was not about to miss his opportunity again. At the Land Board’s June 27 meeting, where he orally requested a contested case hearing on a proposed sublease between the telescope developer and the University of Hawai`i, he submitted a written petition as well.
At that meeting, the Land Board entertained a recommendation to dismiss his June 13 request for a contested case hearing on the matter, as well as that of activist Dan Purcell, because they had both failed to follow up their oral requests with the required written petition within 10 days.
At the board’s June 27 meeting, it approved a Land Division recommendation to issue a sublease to the TMT International Observatory, LLC, but stayed the consent until the contested case hearing process ran its course. In addition to Flores and Purcell, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Paul Neves, Clarence Kukaukahi Ching, Kealoha Pisciotta, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, and Harry Fergerstrom requested a contested case hearing on the sublease.
OHA later rescinded its request. The Land Board was scheduled to hear a recommendation from its Land Division to deny all of the other contested case hearing requests at its July 25 meeting.
Although the DLNR will not be receiving any portion of the millions of dollars in rent the University of Hawai`i is expected to receive from the TMT, outgoing Hawai`i island Land Board member Rob Pacheco, who made the motion to approve the sublease, seemed comfortable that the state was receiving substantial rent for the use of the telescope site. All of the rent the university receives from its telescope sublessees goes into a Mauna Kea management special fund.
Office of Mauna Kea Management’s Stephanie Nagata noted that the TMT would be contributing $2.2 million to the management of the mountain.
– Teresa Dawson