Farm Land in double jeprody

Posting courtesy of Laura Thielen.

Please read this, and if you are concerned about what is happening, cut and paste the email addresses at the bottom and send an email to the Legislature TODAY.

The Legislature is poised to pass two bills that will eradicate more high quality farmland than Ho’opili.

SB 2341 allows vacation rentals on agricultural lands, including the highest production lands.  Even worse, vacation rentals can be the primary use, no farming is required.

SB 2350 doubles the number of houses permitted on agricultural lots with one ohana dwelling for each farm dwelling.*

If these bills pass, the number of houses built on agricultural lands will dramatically increase and agricultural lots will be priced for their vacation rental value, not their farming potential.

The expansion of tourism has already transformed other areas, like Windward Oahu.  The density of some communities doubled when ohana units were allowed.  The vacation rental market dominates many neighborhoods, affecting home prices.

Nearly 16,000 acres of farmland on Oahu’s North Shore are being marketed for great views or access to the ocean.  These qualities aren’t relevant to farming; they’re relevant to tourism.  The bill permitting vacation rentals as a primary use will destroy any ability to assure these lands remain available for agricultural production.

The price of Oahu farmland is nearly out of reach for food farms today.  These bills will make it impossible for food farms to operate.  The vast majority of Oahu’s food is grown on rented land.  Will landlords force farms to close when neighboring vacation rentals complain about noise, or when they realize they can increase their rental income by transforming all or some of the property to vacation rentals?

The Department of Agriculture, Office of Planning, and City and County of Honolulu have all testified against these bills and the Farm Bureau has raised serious concerns.

Our Constitution requires the State to assure the availability of agricultural lands for agriculture.  The law requires directing non-agricultural uses away from the best farmland.  Several bills before the Legislature this session support increasing local food production.

How is it that the Legislature on one hand says it supports agriculture, but on the other hand takes action to pass laws that will transform the agricultural district into the rural tourist district?

The Senate unanimously passed both bills.  They are now at the House Committee on Water Land and Ocean Resources.

Contact legislators at the links below and tell them to stop SB 2341 and SB 2350.

Email addresses for Chair Jerry Chang, Vice Chair Sharon Har and Committee members:

repchang@capitol.hawaii.gov; rephar@capitol.hawaii.gov; repcabanilla@capitol.hawaii.gov; repcarroll@capitol.hawaii.gov; repcoffman@capitol.hawaii.gov; repherkes@capitol.hawaii.gov; repito@capitol.hawaii.gov; repkawakami@capitol.hawaii.gov, repnakashima@capitol.hawaii.gov, repriviere@capitol.hawaii.gov, repthielen@capitol.hawaii.gov

* While the ohana unit bill was amended to take out Oahu, it just as easily can be put back in, now or next year.

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