HILO — With the planning director saying “yes” and the Leeward Planning Commission saying “no,” it’s up to the County Council to decide if a Waimea property owner can split a 10-acre plot in two.
The council, seated as the Planning Committee, wasn’t quite ready to play Solomon on Tuesday, postponing the measure until the applicant can address concerns brought up by neighbors who worried about flooding and gentrification of their rural Puukapu Homesteads neighborhood.
It seemed a fairly cut-and-dried rezoning from agriculture-40 acres to agriculture-5 acres for the property, which is in a neighborhood where similar rezonings have already taken place. The property, located at 64-560 Mamalahoa Highway, is owned by a family trust.
“It is consistent with the general area,” Planning Program Manager Jeff Darrow said of the rezoning.
But several neighbors oppose dividing the deep, narrow lot and constructing a long driveway to serve the resulting two parcels. Another brought up the big picture, that rural Waimea is meant to be farmland and not divided into small lots for residences.
“We as property owners … along with surrounding neighbors, object to any development due to flooding and living in a flood zone,” Gail Onodera said in a hand-written letter.
James Hustace, a neighboring farmer, said 5 acres simply isn’t big enough for a real farm.
“Crop producers in this area barely survive on a 5 acre lot. Furthermore, owners acquired agricultural lands for the purpose of agricultural usage, not for the cash gain of converting their properties to residential,” Hustace said. “An excuse of limited housing is not applicable for the applicant since there is more than enough adequate residential properties already existing in Waimea.”
Under questioning from council members, planning consultant Zendo Kern conceded that neither he nor his client had talked with the neighbors about their concerns.
That didn’t sit well with Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, who emphasized that small communities demanded being neighborly. Poindexter said she knows the family who owns the property as well as the neighbors and she wants to see an agreement.
“I would love to see this go through, but I couldn’t vote for it knowing that we didn’t meet with the neighbors there who oppose it,” Poindexter said. “In small communities, we always sit down with neighbors and talk about it. … I think we need to start with the relationships first.”
Poindexter said she’d coordinate a meeting with the neighbors, while Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkowitz, chairwoman of the Planning Committee, will see that conditions relating to mitigating flooding concerns and limiting driveways are included in the rezoning Bill 47. The committee will take the matter up again on April 23.
“I want the community to have something they can sink their teeth into,” Kierkowitz said.