Backers say bill clears up development confusion
A Senate bill that proposes legalizing the Big Island's controversial Hokulia development also would end "uncertainty" for thousands of other agricultural lot owners across the state, its sponsor said yesterday.
When Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra ruled in late 2003 that the $1 billion luxury project was an illegal use of agricultural lands and halted the project, "it made everyone rethink how they were approving agricultural subdivisions," said Sen. Russell Kokubun (D, Waiakea Uka-Volcano-Kahuku).
"We need to clear up the law, moving forward with respect to dwellings on agricultural lands," Kokubun said of his Senate Bill 3097, Senate Draft 1.
"My intent is to take care of prospective problems as well as a retroactive fix" for Hokulia, he said after the Senate committees on Water, Land and Agriculture, and Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs heard the bill yesterday.
A decision on moving it to the full Senate was postponed until 2:45 p.m. Monday.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim was among those testifying in favor of Kokubun's bill yesterday.
Kim said he has "personal disappointment, even resentment" that some interpreted his support of another bill seeking a Hokulia fix (House Bill 1368) as "supporting big business, because it is an absolute falsehood."
"This is not about Hokulia. It is in spite of Hokulia," Kim said.
Kim's written testimony noted that owners of more than 2,500 agricultural subdivision lots on the Big Island and 1,600 in Maui had believed they could build a home without engaging in farming -- before the Hokulia lawsuit. Now that certainty is in doubt, he said.
Sierra Club Director Jeff Mikulina and Alan Murakami, the attorney who represented plaintiffs in the Hokulia case, were among those testifying against Kokubun's bill.
"The Hokulia decision has no effect on other housing developments in the agricultural district developed years ago," Mikulina insisted. "A campaign has been orchestrated to scare many people into believing that."
"The sky is not falling for those bona fide purchasers of lots in agricultural subdivisions, who, unlike the Hokulia buyers, may not have known of the farm dwelling and agricultural use restrictions the counties have so long ignored," Murakami said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.