By Tom Berg – Regarding Bill 65, a measure to condone the paving over one of the most productive tracts of ag land in the state, you have to admit, the Honolulu City Council is having a full-on schizophrenic episode not certain which personality it wants to emerge.
On February 15, 2012, the Honolulu City Council passed unanimously Resolution 12-23 CD1 FD1, a resolution introduced by Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi. The description of the resolution reads:
“RESOLUTION URGING THE CITY’S AGRICULTURAL LIAISON TO EXPEDITE THE IDENTIFYING AND MAPPING OF IMPORTANT AGRICULTURAL LANDS AND ENSURE THAT THE CITY WORKS TO PRESERVE THE AVAILABILITY OF AGRICULTURAL LANDS FOR FARMING.”
In the council’s deliberations on Resolution 12-23, Committee Draft One was passed in the Planning and Zoning Committee to add language:
“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the process of identification and mapping of important agricultural lands also consider agriculturally productive lands within urban growth boundaries that are classified as prime agricultural lands, provided adequate water supply is available.”
Thus, Resolution 12-23 stood for identifying important agricultural lands regardless if the lands are within any Urban Growth Boundary. Therefore, the land known as Hoopili, a tract of farmland consisting of approximately 1,552 acres on the Ewa Plain- and of party to Bill 65 (within the jurisdiction of the Ewa Development Plan), qualifies it to be identified as belonging to the elite group of property classified as Important Agricultural Land per Act 183, Session Laws of Hawaii 2005. Act 183 established standards, criteria, and mechanisms to identify Important Agricultural Lands, and by Act 233, Session Laws of 2008, established a variety of incentives to meet the requirements of Act 183.
Three requisites needed to be in place for any agricultural land to qualify as Important Agricultural Land, and Hoopili meets all three. For example, (1) Hoopili has ample supply of existing water; (2) is in possession of prime ag land which is considered either A or B soils; and (3) is currently being farmed- in production.
The Honolulu City Council deemed agricultural sustainability to be so vital that it passed unanimously Resolution 11-70. The resolution was introduced by Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and it laid the groundwork for the creation of a new position in the Mayor’s Administration, that being the Agricultural Liaison.
The council has led us to believe, that agricultural sustainability is important to the economic future of this county, and it is necessary to strengthen and preserve strong agricultural activity where farming is a viable component of the local economy, as well as protect and promote the continuation of agriculture in areas with primary agricultural lands.
If the Honolulu City Council passes Bill 65 on Wednesday, July 10, on third reading, as is, they are knowingly and willingly contradicting the intent of mapping and identifying important agricultural lands and making a mockery out of the Agricultural Liaison position.
One cannot vote for Bill 65 as it’s written and claim to be pro ag. One cannot vote in favor of this measure and say they support farming. For if the Honolulu City Council votes to pass Bill 65, they will have authorized the destruction of the most valuable, most productive, most viable ag land known in the state and breached both Acts 183 and 233 respectively.
The council should defer Bill 65 until the Agricultural Liaison has fulfilled the mission of mapping and identifying Important Agricultural Lands on Oahu. Otherwise, a sequel to the movies, “The Three Faces of Eve,” and “Sybil,” could be played out right here before our eyes in the years to come as politicians clamor to defend sustainability, advocate for the preservation of important ag lands, and all the while, are rather masterminding ways to do just the opposite. Follow the money.
Tom Berg is a former Honolulu City Council member.