Monday, Dec. 11, 2023 |
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The Hawaii Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding a three-year-old Maunakea land use case this week.
In 2019, Hilo residents Ku‘ulei and Ahiena Kanahele filed a petition with the state Land Use Commission requesting that the Commission declare that the current usage of the land on Maunakea summit is improper for its current zoning.
The Kanaheles argued that the extensive development on the summit, including over a dozen observatories, is more consistent with an area zoned for urban use, rather than its conservation zoning, explained the Kanaheles’ lawyer, Lance Collins.
Based on that argument, the petition requested that any further industrial development on the mauna must first obtain a district boundary amendment reclassifying the land to the urban district.
But after a two-day hearing in Oct. 2019, the Commission concluded in a 5-2 vote that it does not have jurisdiction over the matter, and that only the state Department of Land and Natural Resources can make rulings about the management of land in the conservation district.
“It’s frustrating because that’s literally the Land Use Commission’s job,” Collins said.
Following that ruling, Collins said, the Kanaheles appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which will finally hear arguments in the case on Thursday.
Assuming the Supreme Court reaches a verdict next week, Collins said its decision will have broader consequences for other land use cases throughout the state.
“This case is nominally about Maunakea, but the next jurisdictional issue might be about a luxury resort in a low-income area or something,” Collins said. “The broader consequences of this case are about whether the Land Use Commission will be able to make decisions about things like urban sprawl.”
Collins said the oral arguments on Thursday will strictly involve lawyers for the Kanaheles, the University of Hawaii, the Land Use Commission, and the Thirty Meter Telescope, which he said isn’t strictly involved in the case but is “just being oppositional.” Public testimony will not be taken.
Arguments will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Supreme Court in Honolulu. The case will be livestreamed via the court’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/hawaiicourts.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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