Molokai Ranch: A Push for Eminent Domain
By Steve Morgan
What is Eminent Domain?
Eminent domain is a legal process that allows the government to condemn private lands and take possession of these same condemned lands for the better good of the public community.
Is the land taken without cost?
No, but this process does force the condemned lands to be sold at fair market appraised value rather than at a highly inflated speculative price.
Why Eminent Domain?
Molokai Ranch has abandoned its primary responsibilities to our island and placed a large burden upon the Molokai community. This is evident in the current water crisis where Molokai Ranch is attempting to dump its three utility companies and leave the burden on residents and taxpayers. Molokai Ranch's abandonment of its tourist and other commercial facilities in favor of land banking, and its abrupt layoff of hard-working and loyal workers demonstrates complete disregard for its responsibilities to the community.
Government has a responsibility to protect its citizens. Since Molokai Ranch has abandoned its own responsibilities, it is legitimate for the community to ask that the government step in and assume responsibility.
What would happen after condemnation of Molokai Ranch lands?
Once the government condemned Molokai Ranch lands, these lands could remain under government jurisdiction or more realistically be sold to a private buyer. If sold to a private buyer, taxpayers would not be saddled with the expense of owning and managing the Ranch's lands.
Who Might Want to Buy the Ranch from the Government?
There appear to be several interested buyers. Among these is FirstWind (formerly UPC Wind), a Boston-based wind utility company with operations in Hawaii. A campaign to buy the entire Ranch on behalf of the community was launched almost a year ago by the Molokai Community Service Council, to which a $50 million donation was pledged by the FirstWind company. FirstWind made a commitment to donate all of the Ranch lands it purchased to the Molokai community. In turn Firstwind would lease the lands necessary for their windmill farm. They have estimated that the lease revenue to the community would be between $4-5 million dollars a year. These monies would be invested back into the community, helping to create jobs and maintain existing infrastructure.
If the Molokai Ranch lands were placed in the hands of the community, would this be a good thing?
If the Community owned the Ranch's assets, no utility shutoffs would ever be threatened against our neighbors. The Lodge and the Hotel could be reopened, restoring jobs and small business opportunities. Controversial development proposals like the La'au Point subdivision would be a thing of the past. Water resources would be protected from speculation and the Ranch’s water system would be repaired. And the community could finally begin working to restore the environmental damages caused by a century of land mismanagement.
What is the next step?
The next step is to come to the community meeting on August 20 at 6:00 p.m. at Mitchell Pauole Center.
This is Molokai's chance to take responsibility for its own future!