County Council tackles General Plan

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North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff wants protection of natural and cultural resources to be a foundation of all future planning decisions.

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North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff wants protection of natural and cultural resources to be a foundation of all future planning decisions.

She’s also seeking a countywide inventory of open space lands and an island review and map of public transit routes, as well as the development of a formal public access program for historic trails.

Eoff’s recommendations, in Resolution 250, are part of a formal process of amending the General Plan, the policy document for the long-range comprehensive development of Hawaii Island.

“I’m touching on areas that over the last 30 years I’ve become very passionate about,” Eoff said.

Fellow council members Greggor Ilagan, of Puna, and Dennis “Fresh” Onishi, of Hilo, also submitted resolutions that were heard Wednesday. Ilagan’s Resolution 249 covers geothermal development, and Onishi’s Resolution 251 covers South Hilo roadways.

All three passed unanimously Wednesday.

“We’re in the process of information gathering and validation,” said Planning Director Duane Kanuha. “It’s a big project. It’s a once in a 10- or 15-year horizon that you do it.”

The county is behind the curve. Last updated in February 2005, the plan sat idle while the Planning Department was busy creating Community Development Plans to allow more community input into the planning process. That pulled staff off the General Plan during the recessionary years when furloughs and position freezes led to staff shortages.

The planning director has until April 2017 to review the public comments and prepare recommended amendments. Public workshops will be held that summer, and then public hearings until the plan is adopted by the County Council in February 2018.

Information about the amendment process is at cohplanningdept.com/generalplan. The public, the action committees for the CDPs and the Windward and Leeward planning commissions can submit comments and suggestions to the Planning Department, County of Hawaii, 101 Pauahi St., Suite 3, Hilo, HI 96720 or generalplan@hawaiicounty.gov.

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The purpose of the General Plan is to guide the pattern of future development, identify the visions, values and priorities important to the people of the county, provide the framework for regulatory decisions, capital improvement priorities, acquisition strategies and other government programs, improve the physical environment of the county and “inject long-range considerations into the determination of short-range actions and implementation,” according to the preface of the document.

The 396-page plan can be viewed at http://www.cohplanningdept.com/general-plan.

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