The Senate Water and Land Committee has recommended that Arnold Wong, Kent Hiranaga and Linda Estes be confirmed to serve on the state Land Use Commission.
The influential permitting body is responsible for considering applications to reclassify land, as well as petitions to designate important farmland. The commission has been involved in decisions to green-light the 11,750-home Hoopili development and a 3,500-home development known as Koa Ridge.
The nominees, Kent Hiranaga, Arnold Wong and Linda Estes, must be confirmed by the full Senate this month in order to serve on the commission.
Wong’s term would end in June 2018. He is a lobbyist for the Ironworkers Union Stabilization Fund, Local 625, where he’s worked for nearly 10 years.
Before that, he worked for the Nature Conservancy. He unsuccessfully ran for the Hawaii House of Representatives last year.
During a question and answer period, Wong said that he would support giving the commission the authority to put more sanctions on developers who don’t fulfill requirements and more staff to help the LUC with long-term planning.
“I don’t want to see any more development in country areas if possible,” he said. “If there’s going to be affordable housing, look at places that are already developed.”
Hiranaga, a Maui resident, would serve a term ending in June 2016. Hiranaga works at Maui Kai Realty, his latest job in a 28-year career in real estate.
Hiranaga fielded questions from senators about how he would balance state and county interests, saying that he believes in respecting home rule but would make decisions based on all the facts presented to him.
Both Wong and Hiranaga are currently serving as interim members on the commission.
Estes seemed the least knowledgeable about land use out of the three nominees, but seemed the most supportive of conservation. She would serve a term ending in June 2017.
Estes retired from the University of New Mexico in 2000 and moved to Kauai, where she has served on several community organizations including leading the Kauai County committee of the Democratic Party of Hawaii for two years.
Estes told the committee that she has no expertise in land use and joked, “I thought they should have closed the airport after I moved (to Kauai).”
Under further questioning from Thielen, Estes said she isn’t anti-development but wants it to be well-planned.
A previous version of this story incorrectly said Estes was the head of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.