STATE-LEVEL GROWTH MANAGEMENT
Many states exercise considerable control over the process of growth, particularly in environmentally sensitive areas. These controls constitute much of Bosselman's "quiet revolution," noted in Chapter 9.
The first statewide land-use controls were instituted in Hawaii in the early 1960s. The motivation behind them was that the land area of the islands is small, growth pressures were strong, and agriculture was important to the state economy. According to Bosselman, the goal was to keep Honolulu, the main center of population in the state, from sprawling out, Los Angeles- like, into the adjacent Central Valley of Oahu. Under legislation passed in 1961, all land in the state falls into one of four major categories: urban, rural, agricultural, and conservation. Within the urban areas, county zoning regulations prevail. In effect, counties may (but do not have to) permit urban-type development in any area that the state designates as urban. In rural and agricultural areas, land uses are controlled by the State Land Use Commission, a board set up when the system was created. In the conservation district, land use is controlled by the state's Board of Land and Natural Resources.
Perhaps it is no surprise that the first statewide system developed in Hawaii. A small, scenically beautiful state, subject to major growth pressures and having a limited supply of highly productive agricultural land, would appear to be an ideal candidate for such a system. The fact that much of the growth pressure came from outsiders, people from the U.S. mainland, may also have contributed to the passage of the act.
Partly as a result of the limitation on urban growth, Hawaii is characterized by very high housing prices. But is that bad? The person who already owns property in the state is likely to take a very different view than the person who lives on the mainland but thinks it would be nice to buy a condominium in Honolulu for retirement. Again, we see that planning decisions, no matter how well intended, create winners and losers.