Hawai‘i Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Allowing Ho‘opili to Build on Farmland
(HONOLULU, HAWAI‘I December 23, 2015) — Yesterday, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court issued the final decision in the 15-year long battle over development on 1,525 acres of prime agricultural land. The Court’s ruling allows D.R. Horton to proceed with its proposal to construct 11,750 homes, as well as retail, commercial, and industrial space, on land with soil that ranked it among the “best farmland in the world.”
“Of course we are disappointed,” said Anthony Aalto, Chair of Sierra Club’s O‘ahu Group. “Paving over this land does not get us closer to any of our goals — not our local food production goals, not our affordable housing goals, not our traffic reduction goals. The only one who wins here is the mainland development company.”
The crux of the argument before the Supreme Court was the “Important Agricultural Lands” section of Hawaii’s land use law and whether the Land Use Commission ignored its mandate to protect productive agricultural lands from urbanization. Both the majority opinion and Justice Pollack’s dissent noted that the City and County of Honolulu has not undertaken the process outlined in the law to identify “Important Agricultural Lands.” Justice Pollack concluded that to be a fatal flaw, while the rest of the court did not.
“It is clear from both court opinions that the City has long dropped the ball on protecting O‘ahu’s productive agricultural lands,” said Marti Townsend, Director for the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i. “Implementing this part of the law is a key step towards providing developers the certainty they seek for their investments, as well as the genuine protection of food-producing lands that the public expects.”
“Unfortunately,” she added. “This ruling just ensures that the current protections for agricultural lands remain dormant thanks to government inaction.”
The Sierra Club is now working with fellow farmland advocates to determine what needs to change in public policy to ensure our local governments take all necessary steps to protect what is left of our productive agricultural lands.