Friday, June 14, 2013

The Land Between

What does that mean?

It’s the uses between “urban” and “agriculture” - it's not really urban and it's not really agriculture.  It's between the two and has the kind of land uses that share characteristics of each.

And, it’s generally what folks on the neighbor islands and parts of O‘ahu call their hometown areas.

For most places on the neighbor islands and many parts of Oʻahu we call this land use “Country” or “Rural” – it’s how the residents describe their communities and neighborhoods.  But it is a lost land use.

Here's the math: out of over 4-million acres of land in the State, only 11,602-acres (less than 1/3 of 1% of the total land area) is "Rural."

“Urban” has only 198,600 acres (less than 5% of the total;) and the balance is split pretty evenly between Agricultural (47%) and Conservation (48%) (about 1.9-million acres, each.)

Why is so much of the state considered by its residents as "rural" or "country," but State planning has so little land area designated as such?

We are living with a land use regulatory process that was written and mapped 50-years ago.  Times have changed, yet the required updates to the mapping and associated regulations have not kept up with the times.

While the communities and Counties are more aware, sophisticated and up-to-date with their regional and locational planning, the State continues to look at land use with half-century old eyes.

Let’s correct this and call this regional land use what the people call it – Rural (Better yet, what about "Country?") – and , let’s also update and improve on “Rural” use standards.

Uses in the Rural district cannot simply and only be ½-acre minimum lot size home-site development projects (as they are limited to, today.)

Rural communities are “communities.”

There are community centers, houses, stores, schools and parks - where there are places where people interact, live, work, learn and play.  They are not simply home-sites.

The Rural Land Use Designation does not presently permit these small town and diverse uses … it should.

Many Rural communities, whether primarily Ag-based or simply “country,” don’t want urban design standards – they want characteristics that reflect their relaxed lifestyle.

We need to amend the State planning maps to accurately reflect these uses, broaden the uses permitted in the Rural district and finally define what has been and is actually happening.

Again, let’s not let Honolulu bias impose upon or dictate to others.

Honolulu urban design standards are not the be all and end all across the state.

I remember when Waimea on the Big Island got its first traffic signal in the middle of town.  For a few years, cowboys and others on horseback going through town would lean down and press the “walk” button to cross the street.

They are gone now, because the grass shoulders have been taken over by curbs, gutters and sidewalks – not very friendly to rural lifestyles.

For some reason, the initial land use mapping and permitted uses of the early 1960s left out Rural - even though that's what a lot of people called their lifestyle.

It's time to correctly map and expand our land uses (even rethink the need to have the State tell the neighbor island communities how they should look) ... that means a generous amount of land should be in the "Rural" district with uses that fit the rural/country lifestyle - for now and into the future.

The image shows a friendly reminder of how life once was in Waimea on the Big Island.

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