Council moves forward on ag tourism bill Measure would ban tour activity in Waipio

Council members approved several amendments to a bill that would allow agricultural tourism on ag land, including one that would prohibit such tourist activities in Waipio Valley.

“The negative impacts of allowing large-scale tourism — the detriment is huge and sets up conflict,” Waipio taro farmer Jim Kane said. “We’re just setting ourselves up for a dangerous situation.”

Taro farmers took those concerns to Council Chairman Dominic Yagong, who introduced the amendment exempting areas of the island which can only be accessed with four-wheel-drive vehicles.

That includes Waipio.

South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford introduced the bulk of the amendments to Bill 266, which has generated significant testimony at several recent council meetings.

Her requests that the Planning Department give plan approval and perform a site visit before a farmer, for example, can begin offering ag tourism activities, passed. Her attempts to limit the size of the building in which ag products can be sold, to set a minimum amount of sales that must come from selling ag products, not value-added ones and to limit the number of visitors to no more than 80 per day failed.

Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann spoke out against several of the amendments, including the one limiting visitors to 80 per day, although he said he also didn’t necessarily support allowing 30,000 visitors annually,