Hawaii’s lands are placed by the state into 4 use districts: conservation, agricultural, urban, and rural. Almost 50 percent of Hawaii’s lands are in the restrictive agricultural district. This generally means limited residential uses with little or no room for economic activity outside of farming. Thus, step one in the long regulatory land use process in Hawaii, is a full blown agency hearing before the 9 member state land use commission. The legislature delegated to the Commission, the authority to grant or deny a petition for district boundary amendments.
The governor recently appointed 2 new members to the Commission, Kyle Chock and Normand “Chip” Lezy. (See the governor’s press release for details, here.) The composition of the Commission can direct the general development of Hawaii, because their decisions have a direct impact on landowners and Hawaii’s economy. As with any voluntary commission or board, members sometimes stray from their authorizing legislation and the constitutional underpinnings that guide their decision-making. The land use commission has generally taken a reasonable approach in administering its duties. Understandably, it’s not easy to set aside individual normative values about “how things should be”, for properly implementing the law as adopted by the legislature.