LIHU‘E — While there remained slight reservations, a bill allowing various money-generating uses to agriculturally zoned land passed through the Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday.
The unanimously passed Bill No. 2804 outlines permitting requirements for a variety of additional uses on agriculture districts by amending the county’s comprehensive zoning ordinance, including retail stands, farm dwellings, farmers’ markets and restaurants.
Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro introduced the bill in September, noting the hardship the COVID-19 pandemic has had on farmers.
Hotels and restaurants are primary buyers for some farmers, and with many of those operations scaling down orders or closing completely during the shutdown, farmers and ranchers had to different ways to sell their products, some setting up illegal stands on their properties, Kaneshiro said.
In 2012, a state law that allows farmers to sell value-added products from an enclosed structure on their agricultural land went into effect. This law gave counties the right to further regulate and enforce its own ordinances. This bill addresses this law and establishes a retail stand as a building or structure less than 1,000 square feet and would allow for products produced on the subject property or associated farms.
In the past 10 years, Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull said there have been zero applications reviewed for retail sales on agricultural land for products not derived from produce grown on the subject property.
In that same time frame, six use-permit applications for retail sales on agricultural land have been submitted to the Planning Commission, Hull said in a follow-up email. Four were approved and two were withdrawn before action was made.
Les Drent of LBD Coffee, LLC has spent nearly 20 years trying to sell products from his associated farms on agriculturally-zoned land.
After years of going back and forth with the county, the commission put 11 conditions on a use-permit for a retail stand, one of which prevented LBD from selling products from an associated farm.
While happy to see 2804 pass, Drent said the damage has been done to some farmers.
“So after 18 years of being denied by the County of Kaua‘i government, it appears that the local overlords are finally going to allow farmers the right to retail their value-added Hawaii grown products from their farms,” Drent had written in testimony.
Prior to the vote, Councilmember Felicia Cowden said recent constituent opposition was specific to restaurants and food services. In an “extreme example” Cowden suggested the potential for a pancake house on a farm.
Hull said the bill addresses these issues through a footnote that states that these operations would need to primarily serve produce raised or grown on the property or associated farms. This is further ensured during the permitting application process, Hull said. The applicant would need to demonstrate the farmed-goods being proposed to be served at the restaurant. This demonstration would be made prior to a hearing by the Planning Commission.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.