Buy The Ranch making headway

Ambitious plan seeks full community support

Buy The Ranch (BTR) is rolling, money is already filling the campaign’s coffers. The goal is to pledge $200 million to buy Molokai Ranch lands. BTR founders have already met several times to figure out issues such as community support, fundraising and managing the money.

Most at last week’s meetings agreed they will need reconciliation in the community to reach a win-win situation for everyone. Community members and leaders have been split with strong opinions since Molokai Ranch announced its plan to develop La`au Point.

“This might be what’s going to bring everybody together,” Kekama Helm said, remembering a time when Molokai community wasn’t so divided.

In a “Save La`au” meeting last week, homestead farmer Water Ritte outlined possible financial alternatives for BTR. Some of those include partnering with wind companies. But these alternatives are tied up with a bid for supplying electricity to Oahu. Castle & Cooke of Lanai is a competitor in the bid.

With time withering, members of Molokai Community Service Council (MCSC) and the community have decided to take the lead by proposing a buyout of the Ranch, regardless of wind company participation.

On Thursday, about two dozen community members attended a meeting at MCSC. Despite starting with diverging opinions, the consensus at the end of the meeting was that community members must unite, even Ranch supporters, to give rise to a viable campaign.

“My hope is that this process will be a healing process,” Daniel Bennett said.

Even Walter Ritte, the most vocal opponent of the La`au development, suggested that a win-win situation with the Ranch should be reached. “The key is, we’ve got to leave the door open,” he said.

Holt said Ranch employees also love this island, but are stuck because of job security. BTR members want the Ranch employees to join their campaign.

“For me the most inspiring thing is that there is a possibility that you can get everybody on board, even from the other side (Molokai Ranch),” Todd Yamashita said.

On the La`au Point Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the Ranch referred to a “doomsday scenario.” Without the La`au Point development, the Ranch threatens to shut down its operations reducing Ranch employment to 10 full-time staff.

Yamashita said if “doomsday” does happen, Ranch workers would lose everything. “How is it going to hurt … to jump in on an alternative?” he asked.

Several alternatives were discussed. While partnering with wind energy companies was high on the list, the consensus was that those companies should lease the land that BTR would potentially purchase.

Everyone present was fairly confident the money will be raised. The main question was how they would gather support from the majority on the island.

“We’ve got to keep our belief,” Moke Kim said. It’s not a matter of how much money the BTR raises; it’s how much support BTR would have. “We’ve got to get at least 85 percent of (community) support,” he said.

Time might be running short. If the Land Use Commission approves rezoning of the La`au Point lands, the price of Molokai Ranch lands may skyrocket, according to Steve Morgan.

Attempting to expedite the process, BTR designated several committees including Vision, Fundraising, Planning, Public Relations, and Alternatives. BTR is holding a community-wide meeting to gather input on Wednesday, July 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Kulana `Oiwi halau. BTR members are urging everyone to attend.


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