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Nationally, League members have built over the last 30 years a sequence of broad positions on Water, Air, Waste Management, Land Use, and Energy. The commitment to protect our environment is embodied in the national statement of our intent to “promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest.” While working on the national positions at the state level the League of Women Voters of Hawaii has also studied and reached positions on natural resources issues of particular concern in our state. (National positions are outlined in Impact on Issue.)

Land Use


Action to support comprehensive planning as the basis for land use decisions; public input into the planning process; a device to insure coordination and cooperation between state and county planning; and strict controls on the use of conservation land.


  1. Land use decisions should be based on comprehensive planning.
    1. Government should decide on consistent and coordinated policies to guide Hawaii’s development. Joint policy decisions are needed in areas of:
      1. Controlled growth
      2. Controlled new urban centers
      3. Open space
      4. Amount of land needed between 5-year reviews taking into account population density and the likelihood of urban-zoned land being used for urban within that time.
    2. Citizens should have opportunities for public input into the planning process at all stages and levels of decision-making.
    3. Hawaii needs a device to insure coordination and cooperation between the counties and the state in planning and plan implementation. The counties should have responsibility for detailed planning and control of land uses. The state should provide the broad, overall view, guidelines to reconcile goals of the counties, and restraints on overlypermissive county action.

    (Note that our position neither precludes nor recommends changesin the present structure, for example, to recommend abolishing theLand Use Commission. We are concerned about a clear definitionof responsibilities between the state and counties, however. TheLeague does not feel that the state should control planning withincounties, but we recognize that the counties must strengthen theirown planning and take responsibility for aggressiveof county plans. Under the present system,easy and all too common.)* the implementation buck-passing is all too

  2. Following are important considerations in designing land for urban use:
    1. Comprehensive planning
    2. State and county policies
    3. The environment: physical characteristics, hazards
    4. Agriculture
    5. Control of speculation or at least not contributing to it
    6. Economic/financial impacts: public services needed, impact on jobs and business
    7. Social impact: life style, effects of changing job base
    8. Achieving balance

    (Basically, the considerations listed above are part of the planning process. What we do not have is a set of criteria for weighing these against each other in specific land use decisions. We have not taken consensus on League goals for land use in Hawaii. However, on the basis of our varied concerns for the environment, jobs, and housing, we can call for balance. We could also address specific land use changes, but only following careful study of the proposed change, its probable impact and an analysis of its appropriateness to the specific piece of land.)

    1. Certain lands should be identified and set apart for the purposes of true preservation

      (Examples are wildlife preserves, bird refuges, natural areas for the purpose of preserving representative ecotypes, scenic and historic sites, critical watershed areas, and wilderness areas. Note that these areas would not necessarily be in the conservation district.) *The parenthetical statements are not part of the adopted position statements, but have been printed to provide additional guidance in using the position.

    2. Conservation lands should not be subject to drastic changes. There should be strict controls on land uses in the conservation districts in order to preserve the terrain and character of the surrounding areas and to protect the natural resources directed piece of land, Whatever agency of performance zoning use of land. Clear regulations (We did not reach consensus on what specific uses should be permitted in the conservation district. Testimony should be toward the effect of a particular use on a particular taking into consideration the controls imposed. permits a variety of uses must abide by a set regulations to guide and control the are also necessary in the interest of fairness to the property owner.)
    3. Counties should participate in decisions about land uses in the conservation district.

    (No specific method or degree of participation was defined. The League will support requiring the county’s recommendations on uses in the conservation district. Other proposals will be evaluated as they arise.)


The item grew out of an earlier study of the environment and how to regulate man’s use of it adopted in 1969. It soon became evident to League members interested in the environment that land use patterns influence the location and extent of air and water pollution, solid waste disposal, urban blight, traffic snarls, and other problems.

In June 1971 the state convention adopted a Study of Land Use in Hawaii. The emphasis was on the governmental framework for land use regulations, especially the role of the state Land Use Commission. Our position was reached in January 1973, in time to testify on land use bills during the legislative session.

The League was highly visible in the land use arena from 1973 to 1975. We tried to promote public understanding of, and participation in, land use decision making via our speaker’s bureau, publications, and in cooperation with other interested groups.

We also presented our position to the state Environmental Quality Council and the Temporary Commission on Environmental Planning. We testified on the Land Use Commission’s rules and regulations and on a series of abortive attempts to tighten regulations controlling land uses in conservation districts. Legislative action focused on our position that land use decisions should be based on comprehensive planning. We lobbied consistently for a statewide planning bill and participated on a task force which drafted a planning bill for consideration. The state board has not used this position to address specific land use changes.

In 1976 the Legislature passed a bill requiring the Department of Planning and Economic Development to prepare a state plan. The bill also established a policy council composed of state and county officials to advise in this effort. The League’s comments on the plan during its preparation, and later at the legislature, expressed our concern that the plan failed to establish clear priorities or provide clear guidance for the Land Use Commission. The legislature adopted the Hawaii State Plan in 1978 and directed the administration to prepare functional plans for transportation, tourism, agriculture, housing, etc., to provide further specificity.

League members have served on several of the advisory committees established to help in preparation and periodic review of each functional plan. The functional plans were adopted by the Legislature in 1984 and 1985.

Facts and Issues: Conservation and Hawaii’s Conservation Districts. League of Women Voters of Hawaii, August 1972

Facts and Issues: The Hawaii Land Use Law. League of Women Voters of Hawaii, November 1971

State Planning in Hawaii: A Premier. League of Women Voters of Hawaii, August 1972 (revised 1975)

Statement to the Environmental Quality Commission. January 25, 1973. This statement incorporates background information from our study and is the basis for all future testimony.


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