Planning Department opposes wedding business in Holualoa’s coffee farming region

  • Location of Sunshower Farms wedding venue. (Google Earth)

The county Planning Department is recommending the Leeward Planning Commission deny an after-the-fact permit for a wedding venue in the coffee-growing region of Holualoa.

Douglas and Kathryn Hickey have grown coffee at Sunshower Farm for the past seven years, and for the past three, were supplementing their agricultural income by offering the farm for weddings.

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The combination of businesses allowed the couple to boost the agricultural value of their farm product in addition to making enough extra money to keep the farm solvent, said planning consultant Zendo Kern, who represents the couple.

The property, in the state agricultural district, is located at 76-1297 Waiono Ranch Road, about 1. 5 miles east and mauka of the Mamalahoa Highway-Waiono Ranch Road intersection. The 2.25-acre lot is part of a 20-acre condominium property regime unit which is part of Waiono Meadows subdivision, an 11-lot subdivision created in 1987 with lot sizes ranging from 38 to 1,068 acres.

In a 14-page proposed “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,” the Planning Department said the wedding business is contrary to the objectives laid out in state land use law. The department also raised concerns about traffic on the one-lane Waiono Ranch Road, flooding, liability and neighbors’ concerns about noise and lights.

“It is highly likely the income from the proposed use will exceed income generated by the existing coffee farming activities on the remainder of the property,” the Planning Department report stated. “Having the event venue be the primary income-generating use of the CPR Unit is not consistent with the intent of the State land use laws or the County Zoning Code for lands in the Agricultural District and County agricultural zoning district.”

The commission is scheduled to meet virtually 9:30 a.m. today. The meeting can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/ channel/UCAFoRMb3rfWLQMPd6TAkE GA?view as= subscriber

Kern said the couple learned they needed a special permit to conduct weddings on the property when they started the process of building an extra structure so they could move the wedding business out of their home. The new venue structure would be, to be located south of the existing farm dwelling, would be 3,500 square feet and include a large covered deck, a large foyer, kitchen, two rooms for wedding preparation, a storage room and restrooms.

The farm doesn’t host overnight guests.

“They’re legitimate farmers doing legitimate farming and have been doing weddings with no complaints,” Kern said. “They just want to be able to do weddings on their farm.”

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Kern said as the government seeks to encourage agriculture, it must also allow farmers to do side businesses that help them afford to farm.

“This to me this is a classic scenario of wanting to support local agriculture and those things, that element, that allows them to be successful,” Kendo said.

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