In a 4-1 ruling, the Hawaii Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to a state Land Use Commission decision that allowed for the development of more than 1,500 acres of prime farmland on Oahu.

That means Hoopili developer D.R. Horton can proceed with its construction of its mixed-use, 11,750-home project.

Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald joined Associate Justices Paula Nakayama and Sabrina S. McKenna in the majority along with Gary Chang, an Oahu First Circuit judge filling in for Simeon Acoba, who is now retired but who was on the court when the case was filed in February 2014. (Michael Wilson now holds Acoba’s seat.)

“The LUC in this case properly reclassified D.R. Horton-Schuler’s property from the agricultural land use district to the urban land use district,” the majority wrote, adding that the plaintiffs “did not provide persuasive argument” that the LUC violated Hawaii Administrative Rules regarding the use of the state’s resources and development.

Hawaii Supreme Court Associate justice Richard Pollack during Hawaii State Supreme Court oral arguments from The Sierra Club vs. DR Horton-Schuler Homes, The Land Use commission, Office of Planning and Dept of Planning and Permitting . 25 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The Hawaii Supreme Court during oral arguments in the Hoopili case in June. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Associate Justice Richard Pollack dissented.

The justices heard arguments in the case in late June.

The lawsuit was filed by the Sierra Club and former Sen. Clayton Hee, a Democrat, who argued that the LUC’s 2012 decision to reclassify the agricultural land violated the Hawaii Constitution.

But attorneys for Horton, the LUC, the state Office of Planning and the city Department of Planning and Permitting argued that Hoopili’s location made it ineligible for an agricultural designation.

Horton had worked on the permitting process for the project since 2008.

In May the Honolulu City Council passed a bill to approve rezoning the land from agricultural to urban, and Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed it into law.

Environmentalists said it made no sense to develop agricultural land that could be farmed to produce food for the import-dependent state.

But others, including Caldwell, argued that the housing was needed to accommodate the growing population on Oahu’s west side.

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