As tensions over TMT run high, plan to build small observatory in Lanai faces scrutiny

Published: Sep. 9, 2019 at 8:39 PM HST
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LANAI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With tensions over the Thirty Meter Telescope still running high, community members on Lanai have questions about a plan to build a small observatory at a resort.

Residents gathered Monday for an informational meeting about the Manale Observatory project.

Pulama Lanai wants to build the facility on the grounds of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai.

Makani Tabura’s experience in the visitor industry started on the island where he was born and raised.

“When I think about telescopes and Hawaii, of course, it’s a sensitive time,” said the former Lanai resident. “When I think about it on my island, albeit a small telescope, how big is its footprint?”

The company said the facility would consist of a PlaneWave 1-meter telescope and a 20 1/2-foot dome.

The project is being handled by Observatory Solutions, which is based in Colorado.

Tabura wants to find out more details before taking a position.

“Why not instead of a telescope and all this money they’re going to invest in it, why not bring in cultural practitioners like a master navigator, a farmer who looks at stars and moon phases, and sits with a visitor to Lanai and says, ‘Hey, this is what makes us different?’” said Tabura.

Pulama Lanai declined an on-camera interview, but issued a statement that said in part:

“The proposed site is adjacent to the Four Seasons Lanai conference center in an area previously zoned for hotel activities. The building would hold 8-10 people at a time, allowing stargazing to become a regular activity for visitors and the Lanai community.”

The company has filed a permit for the small-scale observatory. The county says a public hearing with the Lanai Planning Commission is required for approval.

Construction could begin next year.

“Albeit it small, any changes on any island, I think, should benefit the whole in a very culturally sensitive manner,” said Tabura.

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