Hilo Farmers Market clears a permit hurdle

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Shoppers walk through Hilo Farmers Market on June 26, 2018, as it begins to close for the day.

HILO — The county Planning Department approved one of three permits required to erect permanent canopies over Hilo Farmers Market.

The permit would allow the farmers market to construct open-air pavilions on one of the three lots that make up the site. Permits pertaining to similar projects on the other two lots are still pending approval.

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According to the permit, the pavilions will comprise a “greenhouse-style” steel-framed and open-sided structure over the market at 57 Mamo Street.

Nearby, the market’s parking lot will receive a sunshade with a photovoltaic solar array installed on top, with the energy to be used by an adjacent restaurant.

The permit reports that the entire project will cost $400,000: $25,000 for temporary tents to be erected in the interim, $250,000 for the permanent structure and $125,000 for the solar array.

Market owner Keith De La Cruz said financing for the project is “90 percent done,” although he added the remaining two permits need to be approved before construction can begin.

Assuming, however, the remaining permits are approved, De La Cruz said construction can begin by the summer, adding construction might last anywhere between three and six months.

During construction, De La Cruz said part of the Mamo Street lot could be temporarily repurposed to support vendors, rather than close the market for the duration of construction. To avoid overly disrupting the market, the structures will likely be built one at a time.

De La Cruz submitted the first of the applications in December, after being ordered by the county to remove the tarps and tents sheltering the market in March 2018 because they violated building, zoning and fire codes. The tarps and tents had stood at the market since 2008 because of a special management area permit, but that permit expired.

After the SMA permit expired in March 2018, the market incurred daily fines of $4,000 for every day of noncompliance until June, when a temporary structure permit was approved. The market accrued $212,000 in fines by October.

De La Cruz said he is working closely with the county to determine how to pay the fines, which could be reduced by the county.

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While De La Cruz could not divulge specifics of the arrangement, he said discussions about that issue are “moving forward.”

“I appreciate everyone’s patience with us as we try to set this set up,” De La Cruz said.

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