Bad reviews sink Molokai EIS
Public comment and a state panel report are critical of the Laau project study
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HOOLEHUA, Molokai » Those critical of Molokai Ranch's proposed luxury development at Laau cheered yesterday after the large landowner withdrew its environmental impact study during a state Land Use Commission hearing.
Ranch representatives said they are still committed to developing the project but wanted to revise the 3,000-page study because of public criticisms.
The commission's pending staff report, usually read at the end of the hearing, would have been unfavorable, according to one of the commissioners.
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HOOLEHUA, Molokai » Because of public criticism, Molokai Ranch withdrew its environmental impact statement for a proposed luxury development during a state Land Use Commission hearing yesterday.
Ranch officials made the decision after Thursday's testimony criticizing the Laau development. A pending commission staff report was expected to blast the 3,000-page environmental study by the company, also known as Molokai Properties Ltd.
"We took their 3,000 pages and put them back to square one," activist Walter Ritte told scores of cheering supporters after the meeting. "That was our goal. ... We won."
The pending commission staff report that would have been read at the end of yesterday's two-day hearing was not favorable and was probably why the ranch withdrew, said Commissioner Thomas Contrades after the meeting. "That's what I think, anyway."
Ranch attorney Yvonne Izu told commissioners yesterday that while the ranch did not agree with all the criticism, some points were well taken.
Izu said the ranch planned to revise the environmental study and respond to criticisms before resubmitting it.
"We may not have addressed the comments as fully as we should," Izu said.
The ranch's withdrawal rendered moot its application for acceptance of the environmental study requesting reclassification of 1,113 acres at Laau.
Commission Chairwoman Lisa Judge said the state Office of Environmental Quality Control will have to determine at what point in the process the ranch will have to start again.
At one point during the hearing yesterday, Commissioner Reuben S.F. Wong made a motion rejecting the environmental study. Wong said he felt the study failed to adequately review the project's impact on water resources, endangered monk seals and electrical demands.
Wong said he felt the study was segmented and did not adequately review other impacts of the ranch's Kaluakoi Resort and its plan to establish a land trust of 26,700 acres.
"One has to look at it all," Wong said. "Those things are not fully fleshed out."
Ranch co-counsel Isaac Hall said Wong's motion was premature. Hall said the commission had not heard testimony from the ranch and officials representing Maui County and the state.
"It's not even appropriate to consider this motion at this point and time," Hall said.
Hall said most of the public testimony did not focus on the environmental study, but upon the Laau project itself.
He said he felt many people had not read the environmental study and that the study was adequate.
Wong withdrew his motion, after the ranch asked the commission to remove its application.
Before a crowd of more than 350 people Thursday, several groups criticized the environmental study, including the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.