The Sierra Club Fights Urbanization of Hawaii

     HONOLULU (CN) – The Sierra Club and a Democratic state senator have challenged in court Hawaii’s plan to urbanize 2,292 acres of agricultural land on west Oahu.
     Joined as a plaintiff by state Sen. Clayton Hee, The Sierra Club sued Castle & Cooke Homes, the Hawaii Land Use Commission and the state’s Department of Planning and Permitting.
     The plaintiffs are appealing the Land Use Commission’s adoption of two petitions to reclassify 767 acres of agricultural land in Waipio and Waiawa, and another 1,525 acres in Ewa to urban use. All are on Oahu. The areas are currently classified as either “Prime Agricultural Land” or “Other Important Agricultural Land.”
     According to the complaint, (nonparty) D.R. Horton Schuler filed the two petitions in 2007 to rezone the lands. Schuler wants to build the Ho’opili development, with 11,750 residential units, business and commercial buildings, schools, parks and roads.
     Hearings have been held since 2009, featuring experts and presentation of evidence. Horton claims to have addressed housing needs, productivity of the land for farming, and traffic issues.
     But the Sierra Club claims the state approved the rezoning without two-thirds vote of the Legislature, as required by state law.
     “Article XI, Section 3 [of Hawaii’s constitution] calls upon the state to ‘conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable lands.’
     “It further directs that ‘lands identified by the State as Important Agricultural Lands needed to fulfill the purposes above shall not be reclassified by the state or rezoned by its political subdivisions without meeting the standards and criteria established by the legislature and approved by a two-thirds vote of the body responsible for the reclassification or rezoning action,'” according to the complaint.
     The plaintiffs add: “The criteria for reclassification of lands in agricultural production set forth in HAR 15-15-77(6) requires that agricultural lands in production two years prior to the filing of a petition shall not be reclassified unless the development is needed for urban growth or if reclassification will not impair agricultural production in the state.”
     The Sierra Club and state Sen. Hee claim: “Despite overwhelming and dispositive evidence to the contrary, the Findings state that there are sufficient alternative agricultural lands and that agriculture on Oahu will not be harmed by this reclassification.”
     They seek an injunction invalidating and reversing the rezoning and designating it “Important Agricultural Lands.”
     They are represented by Eric Seitz.

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