Harris backs ag land

Public hearings begin tonight on
a higher zoning change hurdle

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Mayor Jeremy Harris wants to make it more difficult to develop 87,000 acres of the most important agricultural lands on Oahu through a bill establishing "protection zones."

A weeklong series of islandwide informational hearings on the proposal begins tonight.

Harris has said the bill keeps the lands in agricultural use "in perpetuity." But officials noted it would only make it more difficult for development to occur.

The proposed bill "sets a policy for our administration and the City Council (that says) we want to preserve prime ag land," Planning Director Randall Fujiki said.

Under the proposal, lands within the agricultural protection zones can only be upzoned through approval from a two-thirds majority, or six votes, of the nine-member Council. It also is called a "super majority" approval.

Currently, zoning changes are approved by a "simple" majority of five votes.

The proposal also calls for an upzoning to occur only when the state Department of Agriculture has supported it. But officials from the state and city acknowledge they have yet to figure out how, or if, such authority can be worked into the plan.

Further, the draft bill would prohibit the subdivision of lands within the protection zone except for agricultural or conveyance purposes, or to satisfy a lender's agricultural loan requirements.

It would not adversely affect zone changes or subdivision actions currently in the hopper.

"We're not discouraging development, but we want development in the right places for our long-range future," Fujiki said. "You don't want L.A. here. You want the open space, you want the ag land."

Preservation advocates generally hailed the proposal while representatives of large Oahu landowners said they have some concerns and want to learn more about how it would work.

Jeff Mikulina, director of the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club, called the bill a good first step.

But the proposal doesn't go far enough in guaranteeing agricultural lands will stay that way in perpetuity, Mikulina said.

David Rae, manager of public affairs for Campbell Estate, said his company is not sure the proposal is the best way to help farmers.

"If agriculture needs assistance, it's in finding markets and a reliable clean water supply that farmers can count on all the time," Rae said. "And being able to get their goods to market and expanding training in agribusiness."

Kamehameha Schools spokesman Kekoa Paulsen said the estate is still studying the proposal. "We haven't really taken a position yet, but we're really not certain what the purpose of the bill is."

Tish Uyehara, deputy director for the state Department of Agriculture, said her agency supports the concept of the protection zones but has yet to carefully review all the details.


Presentations by the city Department of Planning and Permitting on Mayor Jeremy Harris' proposal to retain 87,000 acres on Oahu in agricultural classification will be:

>> Tonight, 7 p.m., Kapolei Hale first floor conference room.
>> Tomorrow, 7 p.m., Waianae District Park multi-purpose building.
>> Friday, 11:30 a.m., City Hall annex Human Resources Conference Room.
>> Friday, 7 p.m., Haleiwa Alii Beach Park multi-purpose building.
>> Monday, 6:30 p.m., Kaneohe Community and Senior Center.
>> Tuesday, 7 p.m., Wahiawa District Park Hookipa Building.

A description of the proposal, as well as a color map of the areas affected, can be found at the Planning Department Web site at

E-mail to City Desk


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