The Hawaii State Land Use Review Task Force is preparing to hold a series of meetings throughout the state to gather public input on the state’s land use regulations and process. The Hawaii County meetings will be held, Tuesday, December 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the county’s Aupuni Center Conference Room in Hilo and Wednesday, December 3, from 6 to 8 p.m at the Kona Natural Energy Lab Conference Room.“These meetings may be of particular interest to land owners, developers, farmers, conservation groups, planners and others who have had or will have experience with State land use, district boundary amendments, and special permit matters,” notes the Hawaii Office of Planning’s Web site.But some conservationists worry that the hearings may be the beginning of another attempt to abolish or defang the state’s Land Use Commission. Public testimony and contested case hearings before the Commission have played key roles in stopping development projects at O‘oma, Pohue Bay, Keopuka and other areas on this island.
“I hear this ‘review’ of land use laws is supposed to happen every 5 years but hasn’t happened in decades – some people think this is yet another attempt to do away with the Land Use Commission/LUC – which would be a bad deal if you have a bad council and county administration,” noted Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation attorney David Kimo Frankel, in a widely-circulated e-mail.
Conservation groups are heavily outvoted on the Commission, and Native Hawaiians are represented only by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs member; farmers are represented only by Farm Bureau. Consumer groups, homeowners, community associations and organic farmers have no representatives on the task force, which consists of representatives from twelve state and county agencies, the State Senate and House of Representatives, the Waikiki Improvement Association, Farm Bureau, the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, the Hawaii Chapters of the American Planning Association and the American Institution of Architects, the Building Industry Association of Hawaii, The Hawaii Sierra Club, the Outdoor Circle, OHA, and the Land Use Research Foundation, or LURF, which represents 21 large landowning and development corporations.
Among the things that Frankel says the Task Force is “pushing” are the conversion of the LUC from “quasi-judicial” to “quasi-legislative”–which could eliminate contested case hearings; the conversion of “non-productive” ag lands to easier-to-develop “rural” or “urban” categories, and the idea that the LUC may not be needed at all.