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July 2005

President's Message
May 21 State Convention at Tokai University
Hawaii Public Financing Bill Falls Just Short of Passage (Laure Dillon & Jessica Wisneski)
Charter Commission (Evangeline Funk & Piilani Kaopuiki)
Tax Increase for Rail (Charles Carole)
Who Will Use Rail? (Pearl Johnson)
Flawed Agriculture Bill Sneaks Past Legislature (Pearl Johnson)
Judicial Airdates
Did You Know? (Pearl Johnson)

Flawed Agriculture Bill Sneaks Past Legislature

With little public awareness, the bill designating important agricultural land was drastically altered by the conference committee. In 1978 the State Constitution was amended to mandate that "important" agricultural lands (IAL) be designated by the state. The conference committee inserted that provision that would exempt 50% of a landowner's holdings from being designated "important."

As the Sierra Club press release explains: "...if the landowner has voluntarily designated 50% of its land ... as an IAL (excluding conservation land), then the government cannot designate any more of its land as IAL. For large agricultural operations, this means that they can decide to designate their land in one part of the island (Ka'u and Hamakua eucalyptus plantation, for example) and prevent having their land on another part of the island get designated (Honaunau coffee belt). A small land owner with say 20 acres, can voluntarily designate 10 acres and be guaranteed that the remaining 10 acres will be non-IAL. This could easily result in a patchwork of IAL based on land ownership without the necessary contiguous parcels for sustainable agriculture protection. Under the proposed amendment, landowners would be able to prevent IAL designation on the property they want to urbanize by simply designating the remote areas that are not going to be urbanized anyway.

The change apparently was little noticed. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and with only 4 dissents in the House. I immodestly claim credit for one dissent. I emailed my representative pointing out the faults of the change. She emailed her thanks, saying she had researched and voted not. I just wish I had emailed more legislators who I think would not have gone along if they had looked carefully.

Legacy Lands Act

The Planning and Zoning Committee worked with Trust for Public Land to get the Legacy Lands Act passed. The Act provides a continuing source of funds to preserve open space and scenic resources. As of press time, the bill had yet to be signed by Governor Lingle.

Aside from legislation, the P & Z committee is monitoring the accessibility of the shoreline. Campbell Estate is selling shoreline property between Kahuku golf course and Turtle Bay Resort. This stretch of beach is now the largest undeveloped shore in private hands that I know of. About half of this stretch will become part of the Campbell Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge manager told me that Campbell had offered the entire coastline, but withdrew the offer when funds were slow in coming. Although the Refuge is now open to the public on at limited times, when the birds are not breeding, she said the larger refuge will be able to allow the public freer access.

The Legacy Land Act is designed to provide funds for just the sore of scenario described above. If state funds had been available, they could have been used to attract matching grants from foundations or the federal government. Then perhaps we could have saved that whole long set of beach for our children. Meanwhile, the P & Z committee will try to assure beach access at what seems to be the inevitable resort development.

Pearl Johnson, chair
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