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RAPID

Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Hawaii Land Use Planning (1-HI-a)

The State of Hawaii uses a statewide planning system to coordinate long-term land use decisions. The land use planning process begins with the Hawaii State Plan. Further land use planning, conforming to the State Plan, is completed by state agencies and at the county level. Land use planning at the agency and county level is guided by the State Office of Planning and the District Plan. Urban and Rural districts are planned and zoned by counties. Agricultural district lands are classified by the Land Use Commission’s Land Study Bureau and zoned by counties. Conservation districts are planned and zoned at the state level by the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Developers should consult the proper planning and zoning resources prior to initiating geothermal projects. If the planned project does not conform to the land use designation of the plan area it is possible for developers to petition state agencies or counties to amend the designation.


Land Use Planning Process

1-HI-a.1 – Hawaii State Plan

Adopted in 1986, the Hawaii State Plan established a statewide long-range comprehensive land use plan. Under the Hawaii State Planning Act (H.R.S. §226-51), the state adopted a statewide planning system to coordinate and guide state and county land use decisions. The State Plan sets forth an overall theme, goals, objectives, policies, and priorities to guide future long-range development. These statewide planning elements are implemented through agency and county level planning documents.

The statewide planning system requires state agencies to develop functional plans and counties to develop county general plans. These plans must be in conformance with the state plan ( H.R.S. sec. 226-59). Several implementation mechanisms are outlined in H.R.S. section 226-52(b). These mechanisms are enforced by the State Office of Planning and include overall plan review, coordination, and evaluation. In addition, the State Land Use Commission develops district plans and classifies land within agricultural districts.

1-HI-a.2 – State Functional Plans

To implement the statewide planning system, the state agency primarily responsible for a given functional field must develop a functional plan to manage activity within that field. Functional fields include agriculture, conservation lands, education, energy, higher education, health, historic preservation, housing, recreation, tourism, and transportation ( H.R.S. sec. 226-52 (3)). State functional plans must conform to the planning elements contained in the Hawaii State Plan. In addition, functional plans must also consider the contents of county general plans. When preparing functional plans, the agency responsible must seek the cooperation of the advisory committee, affected government officials, and people from each county ( H.R.S. sec. 226-55(c)). Functional plans must be approved by the governor.

Functional plans identify priority issues within the functional area and contain objectives, policies, and implementing actions to address those priority issues (H.R.S. sec. 226-55(b)). In addition, functional plans are used to guide the allocation of resources for the implementation of policies adopted by the legislature (H.R.S. sec. 226-57). Relevant to geothermal resource development, the legislature outlined objectives and policies for facility systems under H.R.S. section 226-140 including policies for coordination, flexibility, and pursuit of alternative cost-saving techniques in the planning, construction, and maintenance of facilities. Under H.R.S. section 226-18(11), objectives and policies particular to energy facility systems include promoting the development of indigenous geothermal energy resources that are located on public trust land.

1-HI-a.3 – District Plans

In addition to functional plans, statewide land use in Hawaii is guided by land use districting and classifications adopted by the State Land Use Commission. Under H.R.S. section 205, the Land Use Commission establishes districts and develops district plans. District plans must conform to the Hawaii State Plan. To establish the boundaries of the districts in each county, the master plan or general plan of the county must be considered.

The original land use district boundaries were established in 1974. A district is an area of land, including lands underwater, established as urban, agricultural, conservation, or rural (H.A.R. §15-15-03). In addition, districts include all land below shoreline (H.A.R. sec. 15-15-22(2)). Current land use district boundary maps include those for Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui and Kahoolawe, Lanai, Hawaii and can be found online at http://luc.state.hi.us/luc_maps.htm.

Under H.R.S. section 205-2(a) and H.A.R. section 15-15-17, there are four major land use district types: urban, agricultural, rural, and conservation.

Urban

Urban districts, defined by H.A.R. section 15-15-18, are lands generally “characterized by ‘city-like’ concentrations of people, structures, streets, urban level of services and other related land use.” Permissible uses in urban districts are defined by county ordinance or rule (H.A.R. sec. 15-15-24).

Rural

Rural districts, defined by H.A.R. section 15-15-21, are lands generally characterized by small farms and low-density residential use. Permitted uses in rural districts include all agricultural and low density residential uses except as provided by county ordinance or rule (H.A.R. sec. 15-15-27 and H.R.S. sec. 205-2(c)).

Agricultural

Agricultural districts, defined by H.A.R. section 15-15-19, are lands generally characterized by high capacity for agricultural production and potential for grazing. Permissible uses in agricultural districts are established by statute under H.R.S. section 205-4.5 including use for geothermal resource exploration and development. In addition, lands within agricultural districts are classified through the Land Study Bureau’s land classification system (H.A.R. sec. 15-15-25). Counties retain the authority to zone within agricultural districts ( H.R.S. sec. 205-5).

Conservation

Conservation districts, defined by H.A.R. section 15-15-20, are lands generally characterized as desirable for protection, conservation, or preservation. Permissible uses in conservation districts are established by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and governed by the rules found in Title 13, H.A.R. and Chapter 183c, H.R.S..

Under H.R.S. section 205-2, geothermal resource exploration and development, as defined by H.R.S. section 182-1, are permissible uses in rural, agricultural, and conservation districts.

1-HI.a.4 – Conduct 5-Year Boundary Review

Under H.R.S. section 205-18, the Land Use Commission is required, every five years, to complete a “review of the classification and districting of all lands in the state.” The focus of 5-Year review is the Hawaii State Plan, county general plans, and county development and community plans. Through this process the commission may initiate state land use boundary amendments that it deems appropriate to conform to the relevant plans.

When conducting the review, the Land Use Commission is bound by the detailed procedural requirements of Title 15, Chapter 15, H.A.R..

1-HI-a.5 to 1-HI-a.8 – Is The Proposed Project Area Within a Conservation, Agricultural, Rural, or Urban District?

In addition to the Hawaii State Plan, state functional plans, and district plans are zoning, classification, and county land use plans. Land within conservation districts is zoned by the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Land within agricultural districts is classified for use by the Land Use Commission, but zoned at the county level. Land within urban and rural districts is zoned at the county level based on land use guidance provided in county general plans.

Under H.R.S. section 226-52(4), counties must adopt county general plans which indicate desired population and physical development patterns for each county. When developing general plans each county must consider relevant state functional and district plans. County plans guide zoning decisions, which ultimately establish permissible uses.

If the proposed plan area is within an urban or rural district, the developer must consult county level planning and zoning resources to determine if the proposed plan conforms to the designated land use. The developer should proceed only after confirming the proposed plan conforms to the designated land use for the proposed project area. Geothermal projects are subject to applicable county permits and approvals.

1-HI.a.9 to 1-HI.a.11 –Land Use Classifications

Permissible uses in agricultural districts are established by statute under H.R.S. section 205-4.5 including use for geothermal resource exploration and development. In addition, lands within agricultural districts are classified through the Land Study Bureau’s land classification system (H.A.R. sec. 15-15-25). Counties retain the authority to zone within agricultural districts ( H.R.S. sec. 205-5).

If the proposed plan area is within an agricultural district, the developer should consult the Land Study Bureau’s land use classification system to determine if the proposed plan conforms to the designated land use. Digital maps can be found online at LSB Land Classification Finder. The developer should proceed only after confirming the proposed plan conforms to the designated land use for the proposed project area. Geothermal projects are subject to applicable county permits and approvals.

1-HI.a.12 to 1-HI.a.13 - Zone Conservation Districts

The Department of Land and Natural Resources zones land within conservation districts for permissible uses under H.R.S. section 183C and H.R.S. section 205-5. Subzones are defined within Title 13, H.A.R and each subzone type has a defined set of land uses called identified uses. Identified uses are the most specific designation that governs land use. Possible subzones in conservation districts include: protective, limited, resource, general, or special.

Protective

A protective designation, under H.A.R. section 13-5-22, has the objective of protecting valuable resources in the subzone. Permissible land uses within protective subzones include, among others, siting of transmission facilities for public utilities, energy generation facilities utilizing the renewable resources of the area which are undertaken by non-governmental entities which benefit the public and are consistent with the purpose of the conservation district (P-6 (D-2)). While siting of energy generation facilities utilizing renewable resources is permitted in protective subzones, extraction of geothermal resources does not appear to be a permissible use in these subzones.

Limited

Permissible land uses within limited subzones include all permissible uses under H.A.R. section 13-5-23 and all permissible uses within protective subzones including uses listed under P-6(D-2).

Resource

Permissible land uses within resource subzones include, among others, mining and extraction of any material or natural resource (R-7(D-1)) (H.A.R. sec. 13-5-24). In addition, all permissible uses within protective and limited subzones, including uses listed under P-6(D-2), are also permissible within resource subzones. This means, the resource subzone is the least protective subzone in which geothermal resources can be utilized for energy generation within a conservation district. More protective subzone designations, protective and limited, do not allow for extraction of natural resources from the land.

General

Permissible land uses within general subzones include all permissible uses under H.A.R. section 13-5-25 and all permissible uses within protective, limited, and resource subzones including uses listed under P-6(D-2) and R-7(D-1).

The zoning for a particular plan area can be found within Conservation District Subzone Maps. These maps are available online at http://www6.hawaii.gov/dlnr/occl/subzone.php.

1-HI-a.14 to 1-HI-a.15 – Does Proposed Plan Conform With the Designated Land Use?

If the proposed plan area is within a conservation district, the developer should consult the relevant Conservation District Subzone Map to determine if the proposed plan conforms to the designated land use. If the proposed plan conforms to the designated land use, the developer can then apply for a Conservation District Use Permit:
13-HI-a
. If not, the developer may apply to have a subzone re-designated through the process described below.

1-HI-a.16 to 1-HI-a.17 – Does The Developer Seek to Have the Subzone Re-designated?

A landowner whose property is within a conservation district and directly affected by conservation sub-zoning may apply to have the subzone or permissible land uses re-designated. Detailed application requirements are contained in H.A.R. section 13-5-16 and primarily require a detailed description of the property be submitted to DLNR with the application.

If a desirable project area lies within a conservation district, but is not properly zoned for geothermal development, a developer may apply to the Department of Land and Natural Resources to re-designate the subzone (See, H.A.R. sec. 13-5-16). As stated above, under H.A.R. secs. 13-5-24 and 25, geothermal exploration and development is permissible within conservation districts if the property lies within a resource or general subzone. For example, if the subject property lies within a protective or limited subzone, re-designating the subzone to resource or general would make permissible geothermal exploration and development.

An application may also be filed to change the identified land use of a subzone. For example, where the subject property lies within a resource or general subzone, but the current identified land use does not include R-7(D-1) for natural resource extraction or P-6(D-2) for energy generation facilities utilizing renewable resources. Applying to change the identified land uses in a particular subzone could result in a designation that makes permissible geothermal exploration and development.

1-HI.a.18 to 1-HI.a.20 – Review Application to Re-designate Subzone

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will review applications to re-designate a subzone or permissible land uses. Zoning amendments are governed by H.R.S. section 183C-4.

Amendments will be reviewed based on the characteristics of the subject land and in terms of the zoning and land use criteria for conservation districts described in H.A.R. sec. 13-5. In addition, land use designation must be “consistent with the conservation of necessary forest growth, the conservation and development of land and natural resources adequate for present and future needs, and the conservation and preservation of open space areas for public use and enjoyment” ( H.R.S. sec. 183C-4(b)).

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will complete a detailed review of the characteristics of the property prior to making its decision. Application approval will result in an amended subzone map.




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