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Honolulu Council takes steps toward updating Oʻahu's zoning law


The Honolulu City Council's Planning and the Economy committee took its first steps in discussing changes to Oʻahu's zoning law last week.

Bill 10 was first introduced last year to start the process of overhauling the city's land use ordinance, or LUO. However, updating the law is a huge undertaking.

"Although there have been many amendments here and there, the LUO has not been comprehensively evaluated and updated in nearly 30 years," said Dawn Apuna, the director of the city's Department of Planning and Permitting.

Apuna said that because the LUO is a large document, specifically spanning 10 articles and hefty appendices, changing the law would require it to be done in phases.

Bill 10 signifies the second phase of the update out of a total of five phases.

While it is a complex undertaking, she said it is necessary for the city going forward.

"As we evolve as a community and concerns arise, the LUO should be updated and adapted to address these changes," said Apuna.

"Issues of affordable housing, more walkable or convenient communities, the increased concerns for climate-related hazards, are just some of the issues that the LUO can better address and help to implement solutions," she said.

In addition to making changes to meet community needs, Apuna told HPR that amendments could also help the DPP streamline the permitting process that currently makes it difficult for landowners to use and develop their property.

Last week's committee meeting focused on amending rules for industrial-use zoned properties, which currently make up roughly 2% of Oʻahu's total land area.

Councilmember Calvin Say, who owns an industrial-zoned property, said there are concerns about special exemptions made by the state.

"Most of our commercial and industrial activities and business are all applying for the ag classification zoning," said Say. "That is inconsistent with our planning. How would we address that issue when you have industrial manufacturing production in agricultural lands?"

Say pointed out there is an inconsistency in how the city collects property taxes. Agriculture and industrial-use properties are in different tax classifications, which Say noted makes it hard for the city to tax appropriately.

Committee Chair Esther Kiaʻāina and DPP director Apuna said they'll look into Councilmember Say's concerns.

The council's planning committee will further discuss amending Oʻahu's land use ordinance at its next meeting in April.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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