Saturday, May 2, 2009

Land Use Commission Revokes Agricultural Boundary Designation for Bridge Aina Le'a LLC

On May 1, 2009, the State Land Use Commission unanimously voted to revert Bridge Aina Le'a LLC's property to its former classification, agriculture, pursuant to HAR Section 15-15-93. This rarely used, extraordinary remedy was a response to Bridge's failure to comply with the Commission's January 17, 1989 Order, as amended on July 9, 1991. Without the urban designation, the project cannot proceed.

The proposed project located on Waikoloa, island of Hawaii, consisted of 1, 924 residential units, a 25-acre commercial parcel, a 30-acre school site to be dedicated to the State Department of Education, 26-acres of neighborhood parks, and a network of biking/walking paths. As part of the Commission's 1989 grant of district boundary amendment from agricultural to urban, the Commission required that 60 percent of the proposed residential units be set aside for affordable housing (i.e., made affordable to residents earning 120 percent of the median income).

In 2005, 16 years after the urban designation, Bridge petitioned the Commission for an amendment to the affordable housing condition, because the 60 percent requirement made the project economically infeasible. By Order dated November 25, 2005, the Commission granted Bridge's request and reduced the affordable housing requirement to 20 percent. The new requirement required that half of the affordable homes be made affordable to residents earning 120 percent of the median income and the other half to residents earning 140 percent of the median income. The total amount of affordable homes required was 385. The Commission also required that the 385th unit be ready for occupancy within 5 years from November 17, 2005, i.e., November 17, 2010.

Under HAR Section 15-15-93(b), the Commission "shall" issue an order to show cause when:
. . . it has reason to believe that there has been a failure to perform according to the conditions imposed, or the representations or commitments made by the petitioner, the commission shall issue and serve upon the party or person bound by the conditions, representations, or commitments, an order to show cause why the property should not revert to his former land use classification or be changed to a more appropriate classification.
According to the Commission's January 9, 2009 Minutes, Commissioner Judge, with the support of fellow commissioners, issued an Order to Show Cause on Bridge for its failure to move forward with the project. Specifically, the Commission pointed out Bridge's failure to obtain permits or develop infrastructure since the Commission's 2005 extension.

A final findings of fact, conclusions of law, and decision and order in this matter is forthcoming.

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