Fines adding up for Hilo Farmers Market

  • Shoppers check out crafts Oct. 31 at Hilo Farmers Market. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)
  • Shoppers peruse produce Oct. 31 at Hilo Farmers Market. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — The county’s Public Works Building Division chief sent a letter last month to the owner-operator of Hilo Farmers Market notifying him that fines for noncompliance with building, zoning and fire codes have surpassed $200,000.

The letter from David Yamamoto to Keith De La Cruz dated Oct. 10 said inspectors “have documented daily violations are still occurring on your properties, involving non-compliant tents being erected and obstruction” of sidewalks.

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“As of October 5, 2018, your total fines due has accrued to $212,000,” the letter said.

The popular, nationally recognized open-air market occupies four tax-map-key land parcels at the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street in downtown Hilo. Fines have been accruing at $1,000 a day on each parcel inspectors find noncompliance with code requirements. The fines began on March 19, a day after a special management area permit issued to De La Cruz for a three-story commercial building expired.

De La Cruz was first issued the five-year permit on March 17, 2008, and was granted a five-year extension in 2013. The SMA permit is required because of the market’s proximity to the shoreline and its location in a tsunami inundation and flood hazard zone.

According to the letter, De La Cruz needs to take three corrective actions to be in compliance with code: Remove all non-conforming tent materials from the market property. Comply with the requirements of its 180-day temporary structure permit. And pay all fines due to the Building Division.

The letter warns that continued noncompliance with code and/or non-payment of fines could result in civil action being initiated by the Office of Corporation Counsel or criminal prosecution by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

According to Roy Takemoto, executive director to Mayor Harry Kim, he and representatives from Planning, Public Works and the Corporation Counsel met with De La Cruz and his consultants.

“We are making progress,” Takemoto said. “They are maybe 70 percent on the way to submit plans, but they’re not ready yet. So they’re definitely not going to make the Dec. 14 deadline.”

The deadline Takemoto referred to is for approval of plans for a permanent structure to house the market.

De La Cruz’s temporary structure permit allows him to shelter vendors beneath fire-retardant tarp-tents while the second scaled-down version of the original plans are being drawn up and submitted.

“We’re working with the county as best we can,” De La Cruz said. “We are in our design and structure drawing phase. We’ve got our architects and our engineers doing what is needed here. … We are following the protocols of what we were told to do as far as processing. We’ve done a lot in the past six months. I think we’ve got about three-quarters of it done.”

De La Cruz added that he and his people are “working as fast as we can to get our structures up.”

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As for meeting the Dec. 14 deadline for approval of plans, De La Cruz said, “Possibly, yeah. If not, we can file for an extension.”

Takemoto said the county “needs more information” from De La Cruz “as to exactly how much time he would need and the type of commitment he could make if we extend his time.”