EC urged to stop the clock on La`au development
An emotionally charged meeting left the Enterprise Community (EC) shaken to its core last week Thursday. During the public meeting, person after person came forth venting frustration and anger that the EC was misrepresenting the community in its negotiations with Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) to develop La`au Point. Casualties of the event included the abrupt resignation of a board member as well as two other board members walking out of the meeting to prevent a potentially tumultuous vote from taking place.
Amongst the main purposes of the meeting was to hear from the Alternative to La`au Development Committee (ALDC), a subcommittee of the EC, that had been recently resurrected by EC board member Joshua Pastrana and other members of the public.
The alternatives discussion began with Matt Yamashita, a former organizer for the group. Yamashita said the ALDC was self dissolved around a year ago after the group reported its findings on potential alternatives. In a memorandum submitted to the EC board in January 2006, the ALDC advised searching out a “conservation motivated” buyer for La`au Point that would work within the general parameters of MPL’s Master Land Use Plan.
At that point, Yamashita said the ALDC turned over the responsibility of pursuing alternatives to the EC board. He said the decision was largely based on the fact that MPL CEO Peter Nicholas had stated that he would only negotiate alternatives with the EC board and not the subcommittee.
Yamashita shared his frustration of working with the EC saying “The ALDC received so much negative criticism (from the EC) – our work was invalidated.”
It was also pointed out that the EC had rushed its 2005 vote to approve MPL’s Master Land Use Plan. The EC voted on the plan one month early, breaking its promise to hear ALDC findings prior to the vote.
At that meeting, EC board member Collette Machado had placed the burden on the ALDC. She stated that the “ALDC’s work was “too little too late.”
Fast-forward back to the current meeting. It is now the EC that is being blamed for coming up short on alternatives. Of the thirty some odd community members present at Thursday’s meeting, all who spoke either admonished the EC for colluding with MPL, outright slammed the organization for misrepresenting the community, or pressed for evidence that the EC has done anything to address the deep rifts that the plan has caused over the past year.
“I have no respect for this organization because they closed their eyes to their own community,” said activist Walter Ritte who argued that the community plan was being jeopardized because MPL was unwilling to take the development of La`au Point off the table. “If you want to look for alternatives, then stop the clock.”
But Nicholas revealed that he has indeed been working closely with EC board president, Stacy Crivello, to find alternatives. He said that there are 15 pages in the forthcoming draft EIS that are devoted to the alternatives for developing La`au Point and that “if a buyer proposes to buy La`au Point for a sum that is equivalent to its development return, then MPL will consider the offer.”
Nicholas also went on to say that MPL wouldn’t set a price until a serious buyer emerged.
Noelani Lee, executive director for an environmentally based non-profit, argued that the absence of a price would greatly impede the search for buyers. “You have to go to serious investors with serious numbers. You know that because you’re a businessman. You need to come up with a price,” she said.
According to Nicholas and Crivello, however, there are already two groups investigating the purchase of La`au Point, neither of which are interested in developing the pristine stretch of coastline. When asked to divulge some of the details about the interested parties, Nicholas said “the potential buyers are not interested in working with anyone in this room I’m afraid,” and added that businesses have right to keep transactions private.
The news of potential buyers caught most by surprise, including Pastrana, the head ALDC organizer. He later commented, “I was taken by surprise. Why not share this information with the EC board members? We’ve got to work together on this.”
Heated community comment continued through the afternoon. At one point, EC board member John Pele announced, beginning immediately, that he was resigning from the board. “I’m resigning because I want to have my own opinions. I just want to be able to be me,” he said.
An active member since 2005, Pele states from the EC website, “I… hope that there will be a solution that will revitalize and protect our island for the future.”
After hours of highly emotional public comment opposing the development of La`au Point the meeting moved on to internal business. At this time EC board member Josh Pastrana took the floor and promptly motioned that support for the Master Plan be put to a public vote and the EC terminate its support for the plan should the simple majority reject it. In other words, the community would directly decide the fate of the Master Plan.
Pastrana reasoned that because the EC represents the community it is the organization’s responsibility to accurately and truthfully measure support for the plan.
Immediately, board members took to discussion. Claude Sutcliff voiced mild support for the motion but thought that an immediate vote would be immature and that “people don’t understand the plan” enough to vote on it.
Richard Cooke III took offense to the motion saying, “we might as well just fold up the EC.” After verbally considering leaving the meeting to prevent quorum he announced “I have a baseball game,” and promptly left. He was followed by Sutcliff.
In the brief confusion that followed, Crivello, who conducted the meeting in a noticeably fair manner, concluded “if we do not have quorum, we cannot vote,” at which time, because of the lack of board members, the motion was dropped.
Because of the abrupt end to the meeting, it leaves to be seen whether the EC board members will wholly take up the responsibility for finding alternatives to the development of La`au Point and whether or not the community will have as say in the Community Based Master Land Use Plan.