When opponents tried to stop the Hoopili development in its tracks two weeks ago, they were outmanned and outgunned.

Soon, they may have reinforcements.

Powerful state Sen. Clayton Hee told Civil Beat Tuesday he’s seriously considering intervening in the docket, and already has approval from Senate President Shan Tsutsui to use an attorney assigned to Hee’s Judiciary Committee to help. While he can’t and won’t speak for the full Senate, Hee would certainly add clout to the opponents’ camp.

While he limited his testimony before the Land Use Commission on June 30 to the procedural matter at hand and developer D.R. Horton-Schuler-Homes’ dependence on the as-yet-not-guaranteed rail project, he said Tuesday his opposition to the project stems from decades of watching agriculture take a back seat to other economic drivers.

“In my lifetime, I have seen agriculture being shunted and being pushed aside, and these are agricultural farmers who have done so not only at a profit but to feed people and to make us less dependent on Matson and whatever carriers exist that Costco’s stuck up on,” he said.

“It raises the question of when is enough, enough and at what point residents of Hawaii and of Oahu island in particular are willing to stand up and say ‘Prime ag land that is in cultivation and is providing jobs and is profitable and most important is feeding local people.’ When it’s a question of more housing or feeding people, when does feeding people become more important to policy-makers and Land Use Commissioners. That’s a very reasonable question.”

Hee said that he’ll be talking to attorneys and others familiar with the Land Use Commission’s practices before deciding how to proceed. As this reporter left Hee’s fourth-floor office at the Hawaii Capitol, the senator’s next appointment was with Anthony Ching, the commission’s former executive director and a classmate of Hee’s.

Current LUC Executive Director Dan Davidson told Civil Beat Monday that there’s a 15-day window for would-be intervenors to file, and those petitions to intervene could be decided at the commission’s first meeting in August.

Friends of Makakilo is already in, but the group’s organizer Kioni Dudley could use some help. The Sierra Club, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization, is also mulling its options. Director Robert Harris told Civil Beat that it’s a matter of “logistics” and specifically whether to hire an attorney to do the work.

Hee said that because the case could go on for a while, the time restrictions of his day job as a state senator could make it hard to be a full party to the case. He said he’d look into joining forces with either Friends of Makakilo or Sierra Club.

The step to intervene would be a fairly dramatic one. As Hee acknowledged: “Legislators generally avoid getting involved in issues like this, particularly when it’s not in their backyard.” Colleagues have approached him to talk about Hoopili — but not to express support.

Listen to the full 40-minute interview with Sen. Clayton Hee:

Honolulu Civil Beat interviews Hawaii Sen. Clayton Hee by Michael Levine

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