Donovan Dela Cruz (D) wins the dubious “Public Enemy to Open Government” award this 2012 session.

Donovan Dela Cruz is the introducer of Hawaii Senate Bill 2927. This is a most insidious assault on open government.

SB 2927 exempts projects from public scrutiny and accountability. It shuts out the public by allowing “exceptional” developers with “exceptional planning projects” of “exceptional quality” a free rein through exemptions galore.

Moreover, private property owners within 1/2 mile radius of the proposed 21 Honolulu Rail Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Stations and within 1/4 mile radius of 8 county-designated bus transit stations or centers would have little protection from eminent domain abuse.

On the other hand, SB 2927 so thoughtfully “provides indemnity for any county, its officials, or employees for actions taken regarding exceptional planning projects.”

SB2927 would initially:

1) establish a fast-track process for commercial and residential development.

2) exempt projects on state or county land from Chapter 343 environmental review.

3) exempt projects from zoning, impact fees, and parking standards.

4) exempt development from school impact fees.

5) exempt development from all fees associated with land development.

6) exempt development from impact fees.

7) ignore the State’s planning system by requiring the State Land Use Commission to reclassify land around transit stations or centers as urban. (Think 1,555 acres of agricultural-zoned land named Ho’opili)

8) circumvent county general plans, development and sustainable community plans.

9) allow automatic approval of an “exceptional planning project” (We’d need to figure how “exceptional” is “exceptional”.)

10) provide indemnity for any county, its officials, or employees for actions taken regarding exceptional planning projects.

11) establish planning districts i.e. Transit Oriented Development (TOD) ( http://www.calthorpe.com/Honolulu_TOD_Study? ) within a 1/2 mile radius of a county-designated rail transit station and within a 1/4 mile radius of a county-designated bus transit station or center to achieve density and ridership goals. We are talking about a lot of land footage!

SB 2927 grates against everything democratic. Due Process, transparency, and public engagement must not be diluted. No one should be exempted or be above the law. Donovan Dela Cruz wins the dubious “Public Enemy to Open Government” Award this session.

With anti-open government legislators like him, who needs emirs, ayatollahs, sultans, kings, and emperors?

Commentator’s Note: As of March 6, 2012, the Senate passed Bill 2927 with amended SD 2 on March 6, 2012. Ayes, 24: Donovan Dela Cruz, Malama Solomon, Carol Fukunaga, Maile Shimabukuro, David Y Ige, Michelle Kidani, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Kalani J English, Will Espero, Clayton Hee, Gilbert Kahele, Ronald Kouchi, Glenn Wakai, Josh Green, Rosalyn Baker, Mike Gabbard, Brian Taniguchi, ShanTsutsui, Brickwood Galuteria, Clarence Nishihara,Aye(s) with reservations: Senator(s) Les Ihara Jr, Donna Mercado Kim, Pohai Ryan, Jill Tokuda. Nos, 1: (Senator(s) Sam Slom (R). Excused, 0 (none). Bill 2927 SD-2 is now transmitted to the House of Representatives.

About the author: Originally from Singapore, Choon James has been a successful real estate broker in Hawaii for over 20 years.