Friday, June 15, 2001

Land Use Commission
rejects Sierra Club’s
development request

By Diana Leone

The state Land Use Commission has turned down a Sierra Club request for tighter rules to slow development of agricultural land for "luxury mansions."

Developers have been circumventing the scrutiny of the state Land Use Commission and should have to face it when their projects are clearly not an agricultural use, Sierra Club member David Kimo Frankel told the commission yesterday.

"We're not attempting to prohibit development, but to insure that the public has a right to participate in decisions regarding development," Frankel said.

But five of the six commissioners present for the meeting voted not to change its rules along the lines the Sierra Club suggested. The commission will explain its reasoning in a formal order, possibly at its June 28 meeting, said its executive officer, Anthony J.H. Ching.

The Sierra Club proposal asked that:

>> In assessing whether a project is agricultural, the commission should examine it as a whole, not piecemeal.

>> A proposed subdivision should have to prove it really is agricultural if it includes any one of these elements: gated or limited entry; houses situated along golf course fairways; covenants that restrict any agricultural practices; resortlike features; or house prices that exceed the median price of houses in the state.

>> Dwellings on agricultural land should not be larger than 3,500 square feet.

Frankel testified that overly broad interpretations of what is allowed on agriculture land are fostering urban sprawl, trampling on native Hawaiian rights and destroying natural resources. He gave as an example a development on agricultural land in Kauai that prohibits aviaries, slaughterhouses, pig or poultry farming -- "yet they told the county of Kauai that this is an agricultural subdivision."

Several people testified that they think the state Legislature, rather than the Land Use Commission, needs to take up questions of what should be allowed on agriculture land. Others noted that most of the developments on agriculture land have been approved by counties.

All land in the state is in one of four categories: agriculture, conservation, urban or rural.

"This is a complex issue. It's not going to go away," said Commissioner Roy Catalani, who was the lone commissioner voting to take up the Sierra Club's suggestion as the basis for changing its rules.

Commissioner Bruce Coppa said after the meeting that he believes in "home rule" -- that counties should regulate what happens, rather than the state.

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