State Fights for Power Over Land Developers

Eclipse Development Group/ Screenshot

Hawaii’s attorney general is fighting back against a recent decision by a Big Island judge that critics say weakens the power of the state to hold developers to their promises.

Attorney General David Louie recently filed a notice of appeal challenging Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance's ruling that the state Land Use Commission couldn’t revert a property’s urban land use classification back to agricultural because the developer had repeatedly failed to build affordable housing that the state required as a condition of its approval of the project.

The LUC’s decision last year to change the land slated for the Villages of Aina Lea back to ag halted development of the $250 million resort community and put in limbo housing that had already been built on the property.

Land use attorneys have said the move by the LUC was unprecedented and a rare case of commissioners finally taking a stand against developers who for years have failed to fulfill commitments that were instrumental in getting their projects approved.

“A lot of conditions were based on promises developers made to the LUC. And years later, suddenly they don’t want to live up to the promises anymore,” said Robert Harris, executive director of the Hawaii Sierra Club and an attorney.

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