“The Plan” and West Molokai Growth Issues (Part III)
Molokai Ranch Conservation Easements/ More questions than answers
I found it quite interesting that in response to my first article in this series, Mr. Orodenker claimed that my conclusions in regard to Molokai Ranch’s conservation easements were incorrect. What is ironic is that his claim was based on my failure to include information that is not yet available to anyone else except the Ranch. My article was based solely on the maps, terms and legal definitions provided to the public by Molokai Ranch in its La‘au Point EIS.
If and when the easement documents that Mr Orodenker speaks of are actually prepared and made public, and if they prove that restrictions will be placed on these Conservation Easement lands, then my opinion about the Ranch’s plans will change accordingly. But for now, no one has any proof that the Ranch’s proposed easements will really protect the lands that they now classify as “rural” (the same classification they are asking the LUC to approve for La‘au and its proposed 200 homes). Nor does anyone have any proof that the Ranch’s easements would protect lands classified as “agricultural.” Mr. Orodenker does say that “agricultural support structures” will be allowed on those lands, but again, state law includes “farm dwellings” in the definition of agricultural support structures. As I mentioned in my last article, all of the homes built at Kaluakoi and Kawela are classified as farm dwellings.
As for the Ranch’s promise that the community can rely on the Molokai Land Trust to protect these lands under easements to the Trust, the following excerpt from the Department of Interior may help to bring more clarity into this issue:
“When private owners place their land in a conservation easement, they do not necessarily have to give up control of the land. The landowner retains the rights to use the land, sell the property to another party or deed it to heirs. The property remains privately owned and subject to county property taxes, but landowners who donate an easement typically realize significant state and federal income tax benefits. In many cases, the fair market value of the land donated is considered a tax-deductible donation. These tax benefits are often substantial for landowners who donate land or a conservation easement to a Land Trust. Also, conservation easements do not necessarily mean that land must be locked away. Each easement is as unique as the landscape it preserves and most include concessions to modernity and its financial pressures. Depending on the size and character of the land, easements may allow selective timbering, agricultural use, maintenance of water impoundments, hunting and fishing and even the construction of new homes.”
Taking into consideration the varied possibilities in which these lands can be used and also recognizing that no public documents exist demonstrating easement restrictions on these lands, it is fair and reasonable to say that the community has every right to question the intended usage of Molokai Ranch’s proposed conservation easements.