by Andrew Walden
Puna is one of the very few places in Hawai`i where young local families can afford to buy their own home and begin life as a family. That is a key reason why large numbers of people from O`ahu, Maui and Kaua`i come to Hawai`i instead of going to the mainland. But environmentalists are working hard to put a stop to the inflow of locals and replicate the success they have had in making Maui and Kaua`i into exclusive havens for rich mainland transplants.
Over the objections of two of the three council members representing Puna, the Hawai`i County Council Planning Committee July 30 voted 5-4 to reject any attempt to substantially amend the Puna Community Development Plan. The proposal now goes to the County Council meetings August 13 and 27 at the Sheraton Keauhou in Kailua-Kona.
Amendments would have slowed the process of CDP adoption to the point that it would have been considered by the new council emerging as a result of this fall’s elections. Among the backers of taxation and confiscation, Councilmember Pilago is leaving office to run for mayor, Brenda Ford is facing a stiff challenge from Casey DeloSantos, and Bob Jacobson’s district is a beautiful blue sea of signs supporting his opponent Guy Enriques. Pete Hoffman and Dominic Yagong also opposed adding any substantial amendments to the CDP.
Supporting consideration of amendments were Puna Council Members Emily Naeole and J Yoshimoto and Hilo Council members Stacey Higa and Donald Ikeda. Naeole is facing a stiff challenge from opponents including Kale Gumapac and Wayne Joseph who both participated in a rally backing the tax and confiscate plan. Another Naeole opponent is former councilman and two time convicted felon Gary Safarik who in 2005 forced passage of the County General Plan which mandated the CDP process.
Drafted by sycophants of Jacobson, the CDP if implemented would cause thousands of Puna lot owners to lose some or all of their rights to build on their property by including them in a “Biosphere Reserve Zone”, a “Biosphere Reserve Buffer Zone” and a “Watershed Zone”.
In addition to partially or fully blocking lot owners from building on their lots, the CDP calls for the County to take ownership of tax-delinquent Puna lots and begin the process of seizing agricultural land under the demented theory that public ownership somehow “preserves” it.
In addition to restricting the supply of land, the Puna CDP calls for several measures which would drive up the cost of construction. This could benefit higher-cost construction companies such as Castlerock Hawaii whose owner, Rob Tucker, helped draft the Plan and is a key spokesperson demanding passage of the plan.
If that is not enough, the Puna CDP demands increases in property taxes and in conveyance taxes.
The CDP also places Hawaiian Homelands property under County Zoning by creating a “village center” at Maku’u. This sets the stage for the Sierra Club to carry out its threat to sue the congressionally-mandated DHHL for failing to answer to County zoning. The result of any placement of DHHL under County zoning would be cessation of DHHL construction and a return to the days when Hawaiian Homelands leases were assigned to only a couple of dozen people annually instead of the several hundred per year who have gotten leases since Governor Lingle in 2003 appointed Micah Kane to head the previously sluggish agency. DHHL is the state’s largest developer of affordable housing.
Almost every political candidate running for office claims to be for affordable housing. But in the place where affordable housing exists, five of the nine Hawai`i County Council members are acting to choke off the supply and drive up the prices. Thousands of Puna lot owners may find their property effectively worthless as a result.
Many Council races may be decided in the September 20 primary elections. Polls will be open from 7am to 6pm. Absentee ballot applications are being accepted now.
Absentee voting info: http://hawaii.gov/elections/voters/voteabsentee.htm