End of a Beautiful Friendship

SUBHEAD: Because there is no inherent "right to develop" without the community's approval, no matter how much you wish it were so.

By Abndy Parx on 21 January 2013 for Parx News Daily -

Image above: Dead End on Friendship Drive.  From (http://mermaidsofthelake.typepad.com/mermaids_of_the_lake_blog/2011/03/friendships-end.html).

It's not everyday that a two-year-old legislative action crystallizes such an incredible backlash- between sessions no less- that repeal of it becomes the first order of business of the following session.

But Act 55, which created the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) was all that and a bag of chips.

So much so that it brought out what Hawai`i Governor Neil Abercrombie called "The Usual Suspects" to fight it.

It really was the perfect storm of a lousy measure containing onerous provisions designed to make the rich richer while throwing a few pennies to the state in exchange for our legacy. It all passed without public notice through a combination of opaque and corrupt practices, creating and entitling a handful of developers to steal public (actually Hawaiian) lands. And all the while it exempted the projects from county land use, zoning and permitting laws as well as other protections such as the federal Coastal Zone Management (CZM) provisions that the county enforces through the state Shoreline Management Area (SMA) act.

What's not to hate?

So when those of us who seem to spend our lives being forced to do battle with bad ideas from elected shills which crop up over and over and over again finally got wind of what happened and showed up to oppose it, the Governor, in his new "I'm not yer pal" persona, dismissed those of us who would question the PLDC as "the usual suspects."

And you know what? That's who we are- we are "The Usual Suspects" We are the Sierra Club, Thousand Friends, Surfrider Foundation, Common Cause and a slew of other organizations, activists, bloggers, facebookers and tweeters that know a bad deal when we see one and aren't going to "shut up" just because a former progressive- a former "usual suspect" who has of late been increasingly kicked to the curb- tells us to.

And yes- we are very proud of ourselves. So much so that we Usual Suspects do hereby adopt your attempt at derisive ad hominum attack. Please, feel free to call us "the usual suspects" whenever you get handed another stack of the usual ideas from the usual developers causing us to mobilize... as usual.

Yes, there are those of us who have been able to sort through the myriad layers of land use regulations in Hawai`i and are not on the side of "dumb growth." Rather we insist on not just community buy-in but the community initiation of development that smart growth requires.

There are those of us who understand that when project "takes too long"- when developers pick a place to develop and then tell us "this is where and what you get"- there's a reason for that.

It's because you're trying to push a round peg project in a square hole in a community that doesn't want your peg in the first place. Rather than ask the community what kind of development it needs and wants or even where it wants it to be, you've already decided that, like it or lump it, we're getting a new movie theater and an Italian restaurant... even if there's no way to mitigate Mel Gibson and unlimited bread sticks.

And yes- we are going to stop the project using the state or federal environmental protection act if necessary because the environmental assessment or impact statement is not just some paperwork to get through but actually has to propose full mitigation for ALL of the impacts- including cultural and social.

And if it can't be mitigated it has to provide an honest "no action" alternative. Or so the courts have said, no matter how hard you pound that peg.

And yes, we are going to try to stop projects by opposing redistricting before the land use commission, show up for state planning hearings and oppose county planning commissions' approval and county council rezonings. Because that's what those bodies are for: to protect us from bad and stupid growth. They're not there so they can be "exempted." And if you don't listen we will "usually"go to court to ensure our right to stop bad development.

Because, despite what some ivory tower land use professors at UH think, there is no inherent "right to develop" without the community's approval, no matter how much you wish it were so.

Exemptions are not streamlining- exemptions are simply the obliteration of our rights to be heard during a process that isn't simply the rubber-stamping of a "done deal."

So feel free to "round up the usual suspects" anytime you want to push a crummy project that nobody wants by exempting it from the processes designed to keep developers honest.

Because Neil, we seem to be getting the impression of late that "exempting" projects so as to allow a handful of developers to rob us blind is not "well intentioned" as you say but rather is a payback for all those campaign contributions you got in '10 and will be soliciting again in '14.

Or so we suspect....usuall.


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