Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force Reveals Draft Plan

The Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force was created by the state legislature to build a plan for Hawaii’s future. The Task Force consists of 25 members appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House, Senate President, and Mayors of the counties of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, and Honolulu, and the President of the University of Hawaii. After several meetings in Hawaii’s communities, the draft plan is available for public comment at

The plan is a laudable effort addressing issues that most citizens can agree on. In fact, at the unveiling of the draft plan on September 22, 2007, SMS Consulting reported that in its survey of Hawaii’s people, more than 80 percent could agree on various issues included in the plan. The primary question not addressed at the draft plan unveiling is how will this plan fit into Hawaii’s existing planning process?

Hawaii already has the Hawaii State Plan Act which was adopted in 1978. It requires (i) a State Plan and Functional Plans, and (ii) county general plans and development plans. Development is controlled by these plans at the state level when developers seek state district boundary amendments, and at the county level when zoning and land use permits are requested. Policies and objectives of the existing plans, in general, must be consistent with land use development.

The state plan and county general plans are usually updated every ten years. Updates require community participation and input from the various state and county agencies. Plans adopted in the past have implicitly included “sustainability” concerns including protection of water and energy resources, alternative transportation, and limiting the impact of certain land uses by setting residential, open space, and higher intensity use boundaries.

Where will the 2050 plan fit in all this? Is it a process running alongside the Hawaii State Plan? Will it supersede what counties have adopted in their general and development plans for their specific communities? Will another regulatory board or agency be added to the panoply of regulatory bodies that already have authority to regulate land use in Hawaii?

Leadership in the legislative branches of state and local government will be vital in ensuring that an elegant, transparent, efficient process results and that the 2050 Plan is harmonized with the existing Hawaii state planning system.

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