After more than three years away from the Molokai Planning Commission, it appears as if DeGray Vanderbilt will be returning.
Although his appointment still needs to be confirmed by the full Maui County Council, The Maui County Council Policy Committee gave the go ahead for Vanderbilt at a meeting last Thursday. By a 5-2 vote the committee recommended Vanderbilt to the local Planning Commission.
A vote by the committee was postponed from April when residency questions were raised by opponents of Vanderbilt. These critics claim he is anti-business and confrontational.
One of his critics is longtime Molokai resident Dr. John Corboy from Kawela, who stated in a letter to the council that Vanderbilt, “has clearly demonstrated an anti-job, anti-visitor bias that is at odds with Molokai’s needs.”
In letters to the committee, Molokai business owners Carol and Jim Gartland and Molokai resident Lisa Weiland Foster all questioned Vanderbilt’s residency status and expressed concern about his understanding of current Molokai issues and how they affect the island economically.
Foster also made negative comments about Vanderbilt’s character.
“Mr. Vanderbilt has on more than one occasion displayed volatile behavior that has resulted in physical altercations, which demonstrates questionable judgment,” she wrote.
When Vanderbilt served as chairman of the MoPC in 2007, he was often critical of Molokai Ranch’s business practices, especially concerning the company’s efforts to develop La’au Point. After leaving the commission he publicly testified at a Public Utility Commssion hearing demanding that Molokai Ranch show greater transparency before they should be allowed to raise water rates.
In 2010 Vanderbilt spoke publicly against Molokai Ranch’s refusal to negotiate a sale for the land it owned adjacent to the campus of the Molokai Education Center, also known as the University of Hawaii Maui College. Using state funds, the college had been trying since 2009 to secure this land. It was just this month that the college reached an agreement to purchase 3.2 acres from Molokai Ranch.
Vanderbilt also testified last year in an appeal before the MoPC regarding the construction of the Zappacosta estate, a 20,000 square-foot single-family home that had been granted an exemption from Special Management Area rules. Vanderbilt did not argue against the project per se, just against the Maui County Planning Department’s process and the project’s incomplete application.
Supporting Vanderbilt’s appointment was Danny Mateo, Molokai’s representative on the Maui County Council. Mateo described Vanderbilt’s attendance record at the Molokai Planning Commission meetings as “impeccable.” Concerns about the Commission’s ability to meet quorum at its twice-monthly meetings has been an ongoing issue.
Although Vanderbilt has spent considerable time off Molokai in the last couple of years, The Maui County Clerk’s Office did confirm that Vanderbilt is registered to vote as a Molokai resident, removing any legal barrier to his appointment.
The Maui County Council is expected to make a final decision on this recommendation at its May 24 meeting.