By Debbie Hecht
The Sierra Club is working with the Save Our Lands Citizens’ Committee and supports the 2% for Open Space Ballot Initiative. A YES vote in November will change the existing Open Space and Natural Resources Ordinance by dedicating 2% of Hawai`i County property taxes each year to preserve open spaces and by removing the $5 million limit on funds that can be held in the Preservation Fund. Strong support was indicated by the 9,500 signatures (12.7% of registered voters) that were collected by volunteers in 3 months and by the unanimous approval by the Hawai`i County Council to place this measure on the ballot in November.
In 2005, the Hawai`i County Council passed an ordinance that created the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund, and the Open Space Commission, as part of the County Code, Chapter 2, Article 42, Section 2-214. An Open Space Commission was formed with nine commissioners, one appointed by each Council member and confirmed by the Mayor. This fund is intended to protect access to our beaches and mountains, preserve historic and culturally important sites, and to preserve watershed areas, forests, coastal areas and agricultural lands.
On April 6, 2006 the Open Space Commission submitted to the Mayor their list of properties recommended for acquisition (see below). Real property tax revenue for Hawai`i County’s fiscal year ’04-’05 was $131,087,098.76.
If this ordinance had been in place in 2005, we would have set aside $2,621,741 with the potential of leveraging County funds up to $11 million in buying power from Federal, State and private matching funds for land protection. If this measure passes, it is estimated we could expect almost #3.5 million to be placed in the fund this year.
The Sierra Club supports this initiative because it will provide a stable source of funding to support island-wide, cooperative land conservation efforts and attract funding from the State and Federal governments and priate conservation donors. For example, Honu`apo was acquired in 2006 with only $500,.00 in County funds. State, Federal and private funding covered the balance. This property is 225 acres of coastal land in Ka`u, adjacent to Whittington Beach Park; it is valued at $3.5 million.
Kauai and Maui have set aside Â½ percent and 1 percent of their property taxes. Oahu is also working on a ballot measure. This change to the Open Space Ordinance will not raise taxes. This money will come from 2% of the existing taxes. Hawai`i County had an increase of $50 million in property tax revenue last year. This is not a change to the County Charter. We are dedicating our efforts for a large voter turn-out so that our elected officials will recognize the wide spread support for Hawai`i County land preservation. We hope voters will send a strong message to the County Council that the Open Space Fund cannot be raided for other expenses as the $3 million that was re-appropriated in June of 2006. Our open spaces are what make the Big Island unique and are fundamental to our way of life. Natural, undeveloped lands do not make demands on overburdened existing infrastructure or County services. Please vote YES for the 2% Solution in November, and send a strong message that you support Open Space Conservation.
For information or to donate funds, contact Debbie Hecht (989-3222), firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Space Commission’s Priority Properties recommended for purchase: Kawa Bay; Waipio Lookout Point; Pohue Bay; Maulua Gulch; Punalu`u Beach Park and adjacent lands; Mahukona; Kamano; Kou; Hihiu; Kamoa; Cape Kumukahi; O`oma (makai of Queen Kaahumanu Highway; Keamuku; Queen Emma Estates (coastal parcel Mau`umae Beach); Puapua`a; Ke`ei Beach.
Properties recommended for acquisition through partnerships: Kiholo Bay; Kealakehe Regional Park; Kahena Ditch Road; Lalamilo Farm Lots Waimea; Forest Reserve Honaunau and South Kona, Ka`u Coast; North American Properties: Ka`a puna, Olelo Moana, Ka`ohe; Kamoa Point; Reish (Lapakahi State Historial Park aes); Makalawena; Old Kukuihaele Quarry and Breakwater; Hoku`ula Battleground; Kahoe; Ka`u Forest Reserve; Botelho Ranch; SC Ranch; KK Ranch; Keanakolu Koa Forests; Ka Lae/South Point; Cohen (Lapakahi State Historical Park area); Pu`u `O`o Ranch Pi`ihonua; Ka`u Great Crack (Southwest Rift of Kilauea Volcano); Waipunalei/Laupahoehoe.