Water Rights, Property Rights,
and the Law of Settled
Expectations
Robert H. Thomas
www.inversecondemnation.com
“Land Use”
• What is at stake?
• How is it accomplished?
• Who are the players?
• Where do you go to affect change?
Laws are “made” by…
People
Legislature
Agencies
Courts
Pre‐zoning land use
• Courts, not Legislature
• Anything not injurious 
to neighbors
• Public trust
• Eminent domain
Origins of Land Use Regulation
• State Zoning Enabling 
Acts 
• Broad division of land 
classifications
• Everything in it...
Multiple Layers
• Clean Water Act, ESA, 
Rivers & Harbors Act, 
COE, FWS
• LUC, CZMA, BLNR, 
CWRM
• Zoning, Building Code,...
Why Divisions of Authority?
• Federalism
• Home Rule
Overlapping State Regulations
State Planning Act
Others (PASH)
County Zoning Codes
Planning Commissions
The Land Use Law
C...
Hawaii State Planning Act
• Haw. Rev. Stat. Ch. 226
• State Functional Plans
– Agriculture
– Conservation Lands
– Historic...
State‐Wide Zoning
• Haw. Rev. Stat. chapter 205
• Enacted in 1961
• Response to perceived lack of 
planning and developmen...
Urban
• Existing or planned 
urban development
• County controlled 
• 4% of  lands in State
Agricultural
• Prime Agricultural (A & B soil rating)
• Non‐Prime Agricultural (C, D, E, U)
• All uses not permitted are p...
AG Land?
Conservation
• Watersheds
• Scenic and historic 
areas
• Plant and wildlife 
habitats
• Parks
• Open space
Rural
• Small farm and large lot residential
• Underutilized District ‐ .2%
State Land Use Classes 
• Urban
• Rural
• Agricultural
• Conservation
?
• Urban
• Rural
• Agricultural
• Conservation
?
County Zoning Codes
• State Planning Act, HRS ch. 226
• Zoning Enabling Act, HRS § 46‐4
– Honolulu:  LUO ch. 21
– Maui:  M...
Restrictions on Government’s ability to interfere with 
property
• Fifth Amendment  
• Fourteenth Amendment
• Hawaii Const...
Eminent Domain
• “Nor shall private property be taken without 
just compensation”
• Taking by condemnation
• Taking by ove...
Regulatory Takings 
• Basis of claim – oppressive regulation = de 
facto confiscation
• Shortcut
– Paying for the change
–...
Vested Rights 
• Right = “Property”
• Equitable estoppel 
• Green light + assurances
• Unfair to stop
Vested?
Vested?
Public Trust
• “All public natural resources…”
• “…are held in trust…”
• “…for the benefit of the people.”
• “…the State and its political subdivisions…”
• “…shall conserve and protect Hawaii's natural 
beauty and all natural res...
Hawaii Supreme Court’s Public Trust Doctrine
• Leaves the question of how the public trust 
doctrine applies to land.  Wai...
Govt’s Public Trust Duty
• Act within jurisdiction 
• Take “reasonable measures” to consider the 
resource
• “make appropr...
Water Rights, Property Rights,
and the Law of Settled
Expectations
Robert H. Thomas
www.inversecondemnation.com
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Hawaii Water Law And The Law Of Settled Expectations

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Slides from the 11/2010 Seminar "Integrating Water Law and Land Use Planning" (Honolulu, Hawaii)

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Hawaii Water Law And The Law Of Settled Expectations

  1. 1. Water Rights, Property Rights, and the Law of Settled Expectations Robert H. Thomas www.inversecondemnation.com
  2. 2. “Land Use” • What is at stake? • How is it accomplished? • Who are the players? • Where do you go to affect change?
  3. 3. Laws are “made” by… People Legislature Agencies Courts
  4. 4. Pre‐zoning land use • Courts, not Legislature • Anything not injurious  to neighbors • Public trust • Eminent domain
  5. 5. Origins of Land Use Regulation • State Zoning Enabling  Acts  • Broad division of land  classifications • Everything in its place • Euclid – zoning  constitutional
  6. 6. Multiple Layers • Clean Water Act, ESA,  Rivers & Harbors Act,  COE, FWS • LUC, CZMA, BLNR,  CWRM • Zoning, Building Code,  SMA permits, DPP,  setbacks • Federal • State • County
  7. 7. Why Divisions of Authority? • Federalism • Home Rule
  8. 8. Overlapping State Regulations State Planning Act Others (PASH) County Zoning Codes Planning Commissions The Land Use Law Coastal Zone Management Act Zoning Enabling Act ESA Clean Water Act HRS 343 EIS
  9. 9. Hawaii State Planning Act • Haw. Rev. Stat. Ch. 226 • State Functional Plans – Agriculture – Conservation Lands – Historic Preservation • Functional Plans must reflect State priorities  and consider county plans
  10. 10. State‐Wide Zoning • Haw. Rev. Stat. chapter 205 • Enacted in 1961 • Response to perceived lack of  planning and development of  prime agricultural lands by  counties • Land Use Commission  • Classified all land 
  11. 11. Urban • Existing or planned  urban development • County controlled  • 4% of  lands in State
  12. 12. Agricultural • Prime Agricultural (A & B soil rating) • Non‐Prime Agricultural (C, D, E, U) • All uses not permitted are prohibited
  13. 13. AG Land?
  14. 14. Conservation • Watersheds • Scenic and historic  areas • Plant and wildlife  habitats • Parks • Open space
  15. 15. Rural • Small farm and large lot residential • Underutilized District ‐ .2%
  16. 16. State Land Use Classes  • Urban • Rural • Agricultural • Conservation ?
  17. 17. • Urban • Rural • Agricultural • Conservation ?
  18. 18. County Zoning Codes • State Planning Act, HRS ch. 226 • Zoning Enabling Act, HRS § 46‐4 – Honolulu:  LUO ch. 21 – Maui:  Maui County Code ch. 19.04 – Hawaii:  Hawaii County Code ch. 25 – Kauai:  Kauai County Code ch. 8.
  19. 19. Restrictions on Government’s ability to interfere with  property • Fifth Amendment   • Fourteenth Amendment • Hawaii Constitution • Statutory • Governments of limited powers – those not  enumerated are reserved to the people
  20. 20. Eminent Domain • “Nor shall private property be taken without  just compensation” • Taking by condemnation • Taking by overregulation
  21. 21. Regulatory Takings  • Basis of claim – oppressive regulation = de  facto confiscation • Shortcut – Paying for the change – Unfair distribution of burden • Key question: how far is “too far?”
  22. 22. Vested Rights  • Right = “Property” • Equitable estoppel  • Green light + assurances • Unfair to stop
  23. 23. Vested?
  24. 24. Vested?
  25. 25. Public Trust • “All public natural resources…” • “…are held in trust…” • “…for the benefit of the people.”
  26. 26. • “…the State and its political subdivisions…” • “…shall conserve and protect Hawaii's natural  beauty and all natural resources…” • “…including land, water, air, minerals and energy  sources...” • “…shall promote the development and utilization  of these resources in a manner consistent with  their conservation and in furtherance of the self‐ sufficiency…”
  27. 27. Hawaii Supreme Court’s Public Trust Doctrine • Leaves the question of how the public trust  doctrine applies to land.  Waiahole at 133  • "We need not define the full extent of article  XI, section 1's reference to 'all public  resources' at this juncture.“
  28. 28. Govt’s Public Trust Duty • Act within jurisdiction  • Take “reasonable measures” to consider the  resource • “make appropriate assessments” to protect  the resource
  29. 29. Water Rights, Property Rights, and the Law of Settled Expectations Robert H. Thomas www.inversecondemnation.com

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