Lingle is blasted
over land views

DLNR’s director says
the governor’s ideas are
mistakenly seen as


Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003

>> Peter Young, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, does not supervise the state Land Use Commission, an independent body appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. An article on Page A3 in Monday's Star-Bulletin incorrectly said that Young supervises the commission. Young does work closely with the Office of Planning (in the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism), which routinely represents the state's interests before the commission.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

The worth of the state body that oversees land classifications is pitting the Lingle administration against environmental groups such as the Sierra Club.

Gov. Linda Lingle favors abolishing the state Land Use Commission as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, while the Sierra Club argues the commission is an important check in the development process.

The appointed commission decides how all land in Hawaii should be classified: urban, rural, agricultural or conservation.

Peter Young, director of the state Department of Land & Natural Resources, said the Sierra Club is taking Lingle's recent comments about the commission and land use policies out of context.

"I don't think she's ever made a statement that unequivocally we're pro-development," Young said.

"She believes in home rule -- that we (in government) represent the same constituencies through the county and state, but that counties are closer to the people," said Young, who served two years as deputy managing director for Hawaii County before Lingle appointed him to his current job.

"Many would argue now that the system doesn't work," said Young, who now supervises the Land Use Commission. "At the state level, it does not really encourage public input. It delays and causes expense in a process that can clearly be managed at county level."

The Sierra Club blasted Lingle last week for what it called "her radically pro-development agenda" after she told a gathering of the Hawaii Developers' Council they should support legislative candidates who favor abolishing the commission.

"Lingle is making an unambiguous threat to state legislators who wish to protect the environment: 'Make it easier for developers or you will be targeted during the next election,'" said Jeff Mikulina, state director of the Sierra Club.

"The governor can say what she wants to say, but she should expect a reaction from folks that care about Hawaii's environment," Mikulina said.

The Land Use Commission's role in determining where development goes was highlighted by two court decisions last month:

>> Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra halted construction at the Oceanside 1250 (Hokulia) development near Kealakekua on the Big Island, saying that a luxury residential subdivision was an illegal use of agricultural land unless first reclassified by the commission.

>> Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hifo reversed a commission decision to reclassify hundreds of acres of agricultural land for Castle & Cooke's Koa Ridge residential development on Oahu, citing the lack of an environmental impact statement. The developer plans to reapply for the land use change with the environmental document in hand.

"These important decisions show that the current system works. The LUC plays a critical role in protecting Hawaii's natural and cultural resources. And if a developer tries to shortcut the public input or environmental review process, citizens have recourse," said Mikulina.

Mikulina recalled how, during proceedings before the commission about reclassifying pineapple fields for the Koa Ridge project, the Sierra Club and other groups "could bring witnesses, cross-examine their (the developers') witnesses."

By comparison, when zoning matters are before the Honolulu City Council, the public is sometimes granted only three minutes to testify, Mikulina said.

Young disagrees, saying the "system developed at county level has ongoing opportunities for public input and ongoing opportunities for public involvement. The Land Use Commission only meets on a periodic basis in a judicial-like process" that is further removed from the average person.

"It doesn't have the same broad-based community input as the county process has," Young said.


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