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SB2035: Allow majority vote, cut permitting time at LUC

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Committee on Water and Land on Feb. 7, 2024.
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Feb. 7,  2024, 1:00 p.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 229 and Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Water and Land
      Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye, Chair
      Sen. Brandon J.C. Elefante, Vice-Chair

  From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
             Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns

RE: TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF SB2035 — RELATING TO THE LAND USE COMMISSION

Aloha Chair Inouye, Vice-Chair Elefante and Committee Members,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its strong support for SB2035, which would streamline the process by which the state Land Use Commission acts on boundary amendments.

Under this bill, the number of affirmative votes required for a boundary amendment would be reduced from six to a simple majority.

In addition, the number of days from filing a petition in which the commission must hold a hearing would be reduced from 180 to 120, and the number of days in which the commission must act to approve, deny or modify the petition would be reduced from 365 (one year) to 180 (six months).

This bill correctly identifies and addresses one of the major causes for the slow growth of housing in this state: the delays caused by multiple layers of bureaucratic approvals.

Such delays — whether caused by permitting backlogs or the difficulties of navigating Hawaii’s multitiered approval process — are one of the reasons Hawaii’s average approval delay is three times the national mean.[1]

And sad to say, the LUC is a major contributor to the problem of delays.

Established over 60 years ago, the LUC was intended to protect and manage Hawaii’s four land-use designations — urban, rural, agricultural and conservation — and, in the words of the LUC, encourage those uses “to which lands are best suited.”[2]

In a sense, it became a statewide zoning and approval agency, often trumping the zoning authorities of the counties, which has added to the delay and bureaucracy faced by homebuilders.

In 2020, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii produced a report, “Reform the Hawaii LUC to encourage more housing,” that focused heavily on ways to reduce the scope of the LUC, leaving it free to focus on statewide environmental issues and district boundary amendments of conservation lands, as well as be more efficient in general.[3]

Further reform should look at ways to continue refocusing the LUC to better achieve its original purpose, but in the short term, SB2935 would help reduce the wait for housing developments that require LUC approval.

For anyone who wants to see more homes built, enactment of this bill would be an important and very welcome step forward. We urge the committee to pass this bill.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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[1] Rachel Inafuku, Justin Tyndall and Carl Bonham, “Measuring the Burden of Housing Regulation in Hawaii,” Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawai‘i, April 14, 2022, p.7.
[2] “State of Hawaii — Land Use Commission,” files.Hawaii.gov, accessed Feb. 4, 2024.
[3] Jackson Grubbe, “Reform the Hawaii LUC to encourage more housing,” Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, September 2020.

 

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