Land Use Commission denies industrial park petition

Samson Kaala Reiny

HONOLULU—The State Land Use Commission has denied Tropic Land LLC’s petition to allow a light industrial park’s construction on Lualualei valley farmland.

Of the eight Commissioners present (absent was Maui Rep. Lisa Judge), three –- Normand Lezy, Charles Jencks, and Ronald Heller –- denied the motion for approval made by Duane Kanuha. Land boundary amendments require a supermajority of six votes for approval.

For two of the dissenters, it came down to the developer’s inability to come to an agreement with the military over use of Lualualei Naval Access Road, the only feasible route to the parcel. The costs of both upgrading the road to meet city codes and providing for its long-term maintenance also remain inconclusive.

“That is an issue the petitioners should have reconciled prior to the filing of the petition,” Lezy said of the military road. “I think it’s fundamental to the decision making criteria that’s before us on a variety of levels, not the least of which is whether or not the project is financially viable.”

“In most jurisdictions, you can’t even get a building permit without having legally established access to your property,” Jencks said. “It’s a very fundamental issue in my opinion.”

According to the Hawaii Administrative Rules, after the LUC’s written decision is drawn up, Tropic Land LLC has up to seven days to file to the commission a motion for reconsideration. The petitioner can request the LUC to review facts and points of law that may have been overlooked or misunderstood. The commission would have until May 20 to change its decision. 

The LUC’s decision comes after a major effort led by the Hawaiian-environmental non-profit KAHEA and the Concerned Elders of Waianae to oppose the proposed light industrial park along and any other spot zoning in the valley.

“Lualualei is a fertile, culturally rich, and rural place,” said Marti Townsend, Program Director at KAHEA. “It deserves our respect and protection from incompatible land uses like this industrial park proposed in the middle of farms, homes, and conservation lands.”

“This is a tremendous victory for the farmers and for all of Waianae,” said Alice Greenwood, spokesperson for the Concerned Elders. “Not only have we saved this farmland, but we have helped to protect neighboring farms and uphold the integrity of Honolulu’s agricultural districts.”

KAHEA and The Concerned Elders are also opposing the project’s inclusion in the draft version of the Waianae Sustainable Communities Plan (SCP), which the city’s Planning Commission will vote to approve in the next thirty days. If approved by the nine-member commission (a supermajority of six votes are required), the draft SCP will move on to the City Council for ratification. If not approved, the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) will have to revise the plan and then resubmit to the Commission, which will host more public testimony before voting for it again. 

The Nanakuli neighborhood board and the Waianae Coast Rotary Club, among other groups, officially supports the proposed light industrial park because they believe in its economic potential for the community.