Annual Meeting 1998|
President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
Reproductive Choice (Grace Furukawa)
State Land Use Commission (Astrid Monson)
What About the Woman? (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
State Land Use Commission
The House Finance Committee recently held a hearing on HB 2558, which implemented the State Economic Revitalization Task Force's recommendation to abolish the State Land Use Commission. For many years developers, large land owners, some City planners, and many county officials have wanted to abolish the Commission, which was established decades ago to implement the first state-wide land use control law in the United States. Initially, its purpose was to protect the sugar and pineapple industries from the pressures of urbanization upon the land needed for agriculture. Later, those interested in urban planning and in protecting natural resources and the environment joined in its support.
The Land Use Commission, an unpaid body appointed by the Governor, has the responsibility of districting all lands in the state for one of the four general uses conservation, agriculture, rural, or urban. The counties are then free to make detailed plans and enact zoning ordinances and standards governing specific land uses in urban and rural districts, while conservation and agriculture districts remain under LUC control.
Every five years the LUC was mandated to review the amount of land and boundaries of the four districts and to enlarge or change them as needed to provide enough land for urban development and other uses for the next five years.
As might be expected, the commission's decisions were often unpopular with some planners, land owners and developers, or with the general public, or with the counties. Applications for district boundary changes were permitted between the five-year reviews and were often approved on a case-by-case basis. League's past president Carol Whitesell served on the commission for a number of years, often on the short end of 8-to-1 votes.
As time went on, the lines between the State's planning responsibilities and those of the counties were blurred, so that, for example, sometimes the counties zoned State agricultural land for urban development. A large number of procedural and substantive amendments were made, but the Commission continued to receive criticism, with one of the most frequent complaints being that the LUC designations and county zoning were duplicative and created costly delays and impediments to development. The counties demanded "home rule" and wanted complete control of their own planning and zoning.
In the current Legislature a number of bills were introduced to try to clarify the respective land planning responsibilities of the LUC and the counties, or to abolish the LUC entirely. SB2063 proposed to rename the LUC as the State Planning Commission and to redefine its functions, establishing clear lines of responsibility, so as to promote the uniform application of State policies to protect the environment and the economy, to provide shelter and the basic necessities of life to all, and to establish a method for the State and the counties to resolve competing interests.
On February 3, League testified before the Joint/Senate Committees of Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs, and on Economic Development, on SB 2063, that we welcomed its retention of land use planning at the State level and its provisions to clarify the respective planning responsibilities of the State and the counties. We asked that action on the bill be delayed "until the various community organizations interested in land use planning and environmental protection have had time to compare various bills and analyze the consequences of their implementation.
On 2/27 SB 2558 was heard by the House Finance Committee. Our State Land Use Chair, Jackie Kido, prepared testimony for presentation at the hearing, but due to a mix-up in communications, we did not present oral testimony. Her written testimony, however, was submitted.
Evidently, the opposition to abolishing the LUC by League and other public interest organizations made some impact. On 3/19, the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs held a hearing on an amended HB 2558, HD l which did not abolish the LUC. We testified our opposition to the bill, even as amended, because it still turned the control of agricultural lands over the Counties. Our case was greatly helped by an 11th hour opinion from the State Attorney General that such action would be unconstitutional.
At the close of the hearing, the Committee took no action on HB 2558, deciding instead to move ahead with further amendments to SB 2063.
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