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Merger of Planning and Zoning Proposed (Astrid Monson)
President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
Voter Registration (Arlene Ellis)
Con Con Volunteers (Jean Aoki)
Dividing Governance from Finance (Mary Anne Raywid)
Vote Video
Orientation Meeting

Merger of Planning and Zoning Proposed

The 1950 U.S. Census showed 353,000 people living on Oahu. By 1996 this had risen to 872,000. This 150% growth used up a significant proportion of the island's developable land and required huge public expenditures for water, sewerage, streets and and other public infrastructure needed. With little planning or control, the resulting widespread sprawl of development created unnecessarily high expenditures for public facilities and made efficient public transit almost impossible.

Before the City Charters of 1973 there were attempts to do some planning and zoning, but there was no viable procedure to do so. A member of the City Planning Commission in all seriousness stated that usually a project was zoned first and then the plan was changed to agree with the zoning – a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

By 1973 it was clear that something had to be done. A new City Charter was adopted, which set up a logical procedure – first, a General island-wide Plan, then Development Plans implementing it in eight different parts of the island, and only then, zoning to regulate what actually could be build in accordance with the plans. Two separate City departments were set up - one to do the General and Development Plans and the other responsible for zoning. In 1977 the General Plan was adopted; the eight Development Plans were in place by 1982; the new zoning regulations – the Land Use Ordinance – was adopted in 1986.

Though the various new plans and ordinances set forth many good policies and objectives, they were frequently not followed. Individual projects – often covering many hundreds of acres especially in Central Oahu – were approved by the City Council even though they were contrary to the General Plan policy to direct growth to a "secondary urban center" in Ewa.

Unfortunately, the Planning Department had to spend most of its time and staff efforts processing applications for Development Plan map changes to accommodate specific projects - a direct violation of the 1973 Charter's requirement that the plans were not to be in the manner of detailed zoning. Population capacities in Central Oahu were allowed to grow far above what the General Plan called for. Developers complained that once they had Development Plan approval for a project, they had to go all through it again to get zoning approval.

In 1992 the City Charter was revised to give more emphasis to long-range, comprehensive planning. Development Plans were to present a conceptual vision of what an area's future should be, and zoning was to implement that concept. An attempt to merge the two departments – General Planning and Land Utilization – failed. The Planning Department embarked on a multi-year program to revise the eight Development Plans, with an attempt to incorporate the views of their residents, local business, and community organizations such as Neighborhood Boards. It looked as if for the first time genuine comprehensive, long-range planning would be possible.

All this suddenly changed last spring when the Mayor's Reorganization Plan was presented to the City Council In the Name of saving money and increasing efficiency, the Plan eliminated some City functions and combined some City departments. These changes required Charter amendments.

Resolution 98-88 called for a charter amendment eliminating the Planning Department and assigning its duties, along with those of the Department of Land Utilization, to a new Planning and Permitting Department" which would administer both planning and zoning and would be responsible for assuming various development permits.

The City Council asked for some changes in the Reorganization Plan, and attention now turned to Resolution 98-69, which proposed a Charter amendment to merge planning and zoning into a single department.

On May 1l we testified against both Resolutions, pointing out that with the proposed Charter change `eve could be right back where we were in the `60's and `70's." On May 27 and June 2, we testified in greater detail and on June 17 we tried again at the Council's third and final reading of Resolution 98-69.

Six Council votes are needed to approve a proposed Charter Amendment to be put on the ballot at the next General Election. Resolution 98-69 as did several others received only five. Rather than letting these die, the Council majority drafted a new proposal, Resolution 98177, implementing organization of a Charter Commission to study these and other Charter amendments. Only one reading and five votes are needed for such a Resolution, which was adopted on June 17. We testified because the "impossibly short time schedule" involved would make adequate consideration, public education, and community input impossible to meet the 9/4 deadline to be on the November ballot.

A Charter Commission should be called on or before April 1, 2001 – a ten-year interval from the last one. What would happen to proposed amendments already approved by the Council was not clear. It was pointed out that the City Charter is the City's Constitution and should not be changed lightly.

League will oppose this and potentially any other proposed Charter amendments which are contrary to League's positions.

Astrid Monson
Co-Chair, Planning & Zoning

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