Buying Advice

Meet the General

I’ve previously mentioned the many things a REALTOR® is asked. One of the questions I receive regularly is whether or not a property can be subdivided. While some REALTORS® know some of the rules, it’s not an issue that’s necessarily in our wheelhouse. Here are some things to consider. There’s much, much more, of course.

What is the General Plan?

Start with the County of Hawaii General Plan (“The Plan”). Our General Plan is the document which is the “blueprint that guides the long-term growth of Hawai’i Island”. Incorporated into “The Plan” are local district plans but the General Plan really attempts to consider growth related to the Island in its entirety. After all, things like transportation, water resources, emergency services, and the like are not restricted to only one district.

Within “The Plan” are various maps that show State Land Use and County zoning. The subject property must be consistent with “the Plan” or subdivision dreams quickly become much more complicated. A zoning change is a lengthy process, especially if not consistent with State Land Use. Other things to consider are water availability, wastewater, size of the subdivision, flooding and power to name a few. Larger subdivisions trigger more requirements. I’m telling you; this stuff is complicated.

Is Subdividing Possible?

I have been honored to represent the seller of a large tract of land in Ka’u. With over 70 parcels, a few are quite large. On the surface, subdividing seems very possible. Enter the next complication. County and State approvals require no further subdivision. This has been incorporated into the covenants, conditions and restrictions which isn’t part of the General Plan but is certainly a limiting document.

On a different twist, I also have a seller wishing to subdivide their 14-acre parcel into 2 parcels. The zoning is Ag 10. While the inconsistent zoning would seem to be an automatic disqualifier, there is a physical feature related to the property that should allow the subdivision to move forward. Had we not looked closely and asked questions, this opportunity may not have been revealed. Our General Plan goes back to the 1950s when each district had its own independent plan. Interestingly, Ka’u did not have a plan. Our last iteration was approved in 2005. According to County Code, a General Plan review must begin by the 10th anniversary and be completed by the 13th anniversary.  If you wish to be part of the process, go to After all, it’s never too early to be part of the process! If not, don’t come back and blame the General!

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

Comments (0) Show CommentsHide Comments (Remember)

Cool. Add your comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private, this form is secure and we never spam you.

More Articles from Hawaii Life