1. What does “Important Agricultural Lands” (IAL) mean?

As defined in Section 205-42, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS), IAL are those lands:

(1) Are capable of producing sustained high agricultural yields when treated and managed according to accepted farming methods and technology;

(2) Contribute to the State’s economic base and produce agricultural commodities for export or local consumption; or

(3) Are needed to promote the expansion of agricultural activities and income for the future, even if currently not in production.

Section 205-42(b) states:

“The objective for the identification of important agricultural lands is to identify and plan for the maintenance of a strategic agricultural land resource base that can support a diversity of agricultural activities and opportunities that expand agricultural income and job opportunities and increase agricultural self-sufficiency for current and future generations.”

The IAL designation is a supplemental State land use classification administered by the State  Land Use Commission (LUC). It is an exclusive sub-set of lands within the State Agricultural Land Use District intended to overlay existing State and County land use classifications. To promote the active use of agricultural lands, the IAL designation provides access to financial incentives and benefits to reduce the cost of farming and promote the profitability of farmers on IAL.

 2. What is the legal basis for designating IAL? 

Article XI, Section 3 of the State Constitution states:

“The State shall conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable lands. The legislature shall provide standards and criteria to accomplish the foregoing. Lands identified by the State as important agricultural lands needed to fulfill the purposes above shall not be reclassified by the State or rezoned by its political subdivisions without meeting the standards and criteria established by the legislature and approved by a two-thirds vote of the body responsible for the reclassification or rezoning action.”

 3. How are lands selected as IAL?

The State LUC is responsible for designating land in Hawai‘i as IAL. There are three methods for initiating and designating land as IAL: Landowner Initiated, County Initiated under Sections 205-45 and 205-47, HRS respectively, and State Initiated under Section 205-44.5, HRS.

The Landowner Initiated method under Section 205-45, HRS, allows private landowners to voluntarily submit a petition directly to the LUC for IAL designation. With the Landowner Initiated method, the landowner chooses which lands he/she wants designated as IAL. Generally, the LUC will review the petition, hold a public hearing, and issue a declaratory order to adopt the IAL designation in whole, in part, or deny the petition. To date, there have been 10 Landowner Initiated IAL petitions approved by the LUC, designating roughly 133,580 acres of land as IAL on four islands. Of the 10 approved petitions, three are on O‘ahu, resulting in roughly 11,820 acres designated as IAL.

The County Initiated method required under Section 205-47, HRS, mandates that all four Hawai‘i counties identify and map lands within their respective jurisidctions that have potential for designation as IAL. Each county’s Planning Department is responsible for carrying out this mandate. For the City and County of Honolulu, the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) is responsible for identifying and mapping IAL on O‘ahu.

Land eligible for consideration via the County Initiated method is limited to county-owned and privately owned lands that are in the State Agricultural District and are designated for agricultural use by the county (i.e., designated “Agriculture” on the appropriate Development Plan/Sustainable Communities Plan land Use Map and zoned “Agricultural”).

The State Initiated method under Section 205-44.5, HRS, is a third method to designate IAL and requires that the State Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) collaborate and prepare maps identifying State-owned lands for IAL designation. The State Initiated method is separate from the two methods above.

 4. What are the criteria for IAL?

There are eight criteria listed in Section 205-44, HRS:

Criterion 1 land currently used for agricultural production;

Criterion 2 land with soil qualities and growing conditions that support agricultural production;

Criterion 3 land identified under the State’s Agricultural Lands of Importance to the State of Hawai‘i (ALISH) system;

Criterion 4 land identified with native Hawaiian agricultural uses;

Criterion 5 land with sufficient quantities of water;

Criterion 6 land whose designation as IAL is consistent with county community and development plans;

Criterion 7 land that contributes to maintaining critical mass important to agricultural operating productivity; and

Criterion 8 land with or near support infrastructure, such as transportation to markets, water, or power.

By law, land does not have to meet all eight criteria to be considered IAL.

 5. How is the City and County of Honolulu identifying and mapping IAL? 

In accordance with Section 205-47, HRS, the DPP is taking a phased approach to identifying and mapping IAL on O‘ahu. In June 2012, the DPP began Phase I of the mapping. The objectives of Phase I were to define the eight criteria, identify the data sources to map the criteria, prioritize the criteria, and prepare a Phase I report, including criteria maps and a criteria weighting system. The project Technical Advisory Committee met six times over the course of Phase I.

The objectives of Phase II are to recommend which criteria to use, conduct a series of public meetings to present draft IAL maps, notify affected landowners, submit draft maps to the City Council, then forward the City’s IAL maps to the LUC for final design-making and designation.

Based on the work of Phase I, the DPP initially recommended that land meeting at least one of the three criteria below be eligible for IAL:

  • Land currently used for agricultural production (Criterion 1, Chapter 205-44(c)(1), HRS);
  • Land with soil qualities and growing conditions that support agricultural production of food, fiber, or fuel-and energy-producing crops (Criterion 2, Chapter 205-44(c)(2), HRS) or
  • Land with sufficient quantities of water to support viable agricultural production (Criterion 5, Chapter 205-44(c)(5), HRS).

Available Geographic Information System mapping from various City, State, and Federal government agencies were used to map the physical conditions of the criteria. Examples of data collected and the accompanying reference/source for each of the criteria above are given, but are not limited to:

Currently Used for Agricultural Production (Criterion 1):

  • 2011 Aerial Imagery, State Office of Planning and the U.S. Geological Survey;
  • Ko‘olaupoko Watershed Management Plan (2012) prepared for the Honolulu Board of Water Supply by Townscape, Inc., and
  • 2011 Real Property Taxation Database, City and County of Honolulu Department of Budget and Fiscal Services (BFS), Real Property Assessment Division.

Soil Qualities and Growing Conditions (Criterion 2):

  • Soil Survey Geographic Database, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Sufficient Quantities of Water (Criterion 5):

  • Water Use Permit Records, DLNR, Commission on Water Resource Management;
  • Irrigation System Data, State DOA; and
  • Water Rate Inventory, Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

A more detailed description of the methodology used to develop the criteria maps is provided in the Phase I Study at: www.honoluludpp.org/Planning/ImportantAgriculturalLands(IAL).aspx

Many parcels are being recommended for IAL that may only include a portion of the total parcel area in IAL. So, it is important to view the Draft IAL Maps to determine what specific lands are included in the City’s recommended inventory of IAL designation. Using the map viewer tool, you can zoom in and out and move around the map to find specific properties.

6. How will an IAL designation benefit landowners?

Landowners are eligible for eleven State incentives that include grant assistance, tax incentives to offset operational costs, financing, access to cost-effective sources of water, agricultural education, and training for new farmers, and other measures consistent with HRS, Section 205-46.

The DPP continues to research possible County incentives to benefit landowners in accordance with Section 205-46(a), (b) and (d), HRS.

7. What are the consequences if my land is not ultimately designated as IAL by the LUC?

Your land may still be used for all permitted activity under current State and County rules and regulations. You will not be able to access any incentives and benefits available for land designated IAL.

8. Are any lands excluded from County Initiated IAL designation Process?

Yes, certain categories of land are not eligible for IAL consideration under the County Initiated method, including:

  • Lands outside the City and County of Honolulu’s jurisdictional responsibilities, such as lands that are Federally-owned or State-owned or are located in the State Conservation District and State Rural District;
  • Lands within the State Urban District or designated for urban use by county land use plans; and
  • All land owned by a landowner if more than 50 percent of that landowner’s property was voluntarily designated IAL, in accordance with HRS, Section 205-47(d).

9. Will all landowners affected by the DPP’s IAL project be notified?

Yes. In accordance with Section 205-47(d), HRS, the DPP is required to “take reasonable action to notify each owner of those lands by mail or posted notice on the affected lands to inform them of the potential designation of their lands.” The DPP has mailed notices to approximately 2,000 landowners it was able to identify using information on file with the City’s BFS, Real Property Division (letters sent in December 2016 and November 2017). The DPP also issued a press release, sent a notice to all O‘ahu Neighborhood Boards, and placed a legal notice and informational notice in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and MidWeek.

10. How am I affected if the City is recommending all of my land for IAL?

This is only the recommendation phase. No decisions on IAL are made until action is taken by the State LUC. Until LUC action is taken, there is no effect on your land’s current classification.

Since the process to identify IAL on O‘ahu is still a work in progress, there will be opportunities for public input on the IAL map when the Honolulu City Council reviews the map, and again during the LUC review.

Land that is ultimately designated as IAL by the LUC does not preclude the landowner from using his or her land for purposes allowed or permitted under current LUC rules and regulations and County zoning.

11. How am I affected if the DPP is recommending only a portion of my land as IAL?

If a portion of a property is ultimately designated as IAL by the LUC, the DPP believes it will still be eligible for IAL incentives. Moreover, partial designation does not preclude the use of all land as provided under current State LUC rules and regulations and County zoning.

12. What if my neighbor’s land was not recommended for IAL, can he/she still have some or all of their land designated as IAL as part of the City’s County Initiated method?

Yes, it is possible. They should contact the DPP to discuss their concerns.

13. What if I don’t want my land recommended for IAL by this County Initiated method?

Identifying and mapping IAL on O‘ahu is still a work in progress, and landowner dialogue is necessary to ensure that all concerns are addressed.

There will be further opportunity to review and refine the IAL map when it is reviewed by the City Council and the State LUC.

14. Is the IAL process Eminent Domain or a legal taking?

No. The IAL process will not condemn or “take” anyone’s property rights away.

15. If all or a portion of my land is designated as IAL by the LUC, will my property tax rate change?

At this time, neither the DPP nor the City’s BFS, Real Property Division is proposing any tax rate changes based on IAL designation.

16. Once lands are designated IAL by the LUC, can additional lands be added to O‘ahu County’s IAL inventory?

Yes, Section 205-52, HRS, requires that counties review their IAL inventory at least every ten years, but no more than once every five years. Also, a landowner may voluntarily initiate a petition to the LUC to designate all or a portion of their land as IAL in accordance with HRS, Section 205-45.

17. Where can I find more information about the City’s IAL process?

18. What is the status of Honolulu’s IAL project?

The DPP is in the process of preparing their final recommendations for lands to be proposed for IAL designation.  Upon completion of the written report, DPP’s recommendations will be transmitted to the Honolulu City Council for review and approval, then to the State LUC for final approval.


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