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,
A 70-year-old Waipahu farm worker who died when a truck backed into him at Aloun Farms last Saturday was identified by a family member as Pedro Cervantes.
The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office said Cervantes died of multiple internal injuries from the accident.
Cervantes was hit about 1 p.m. on a dirt road across from the Waipio Costco on Ka Uka Boulevard.
“I knew him as a good person,” said Monica Cablay, 18, a distant relative of Cervantes. She said he would visit her house on special occasions and left behind children and grandchildren. “He just looked like a happy person.”
Police have opened a third-degree negligent homicide investigation. The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is investigating the death.
On Thursday, the Land Use Commission will hold another public hearing on Castle & Cooke’s plans to build a new “community” on 768 acres between Waipio and Mililani. The Koa Ridge project, which includes two schools, a medical complex, a 150-room hotel and nearly half a million square feet of commercial space, relies on the LUC’s approval, and on its willingness to take the land out of agricultural zoning.
The Sierra Club and other environmental and agricultural advocates say that Koa Ridge would deprive Oahu of some of its very best agricultural land and that the project contributes to urban sprawl.
We didn’t have a reporter at the first hearing last month. The Advertiser reported that public testimony showed strong support for the project, with only one person speaking out in opposition. According to that report, most area residents who testified expressed hope that Koa Ridge might keep housing costs down for middle class families.
That’s an important goal, but doesn’t it seem like there are other ways to achieve it? At a time when so much energy is going into rethinking agricultural production and making farming viable on this island again, taking prime ag land out of production–forever–seems like a step in the wrong direction.
State Land Use Commission Meeting, 235 S. Beretania St, Thu 2/18, 9am, 587-3822