Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015


Central Pacific Hurricane Center advises Ka`u residents to be vigilant as Tropical Storm Hilda weakens on its path south of Hawai`i Island. Map from NOAA
HOW TO KEEP FARM LAND AFFORDABLE for agriculture was one of the main discussions at the Ka`u Community Development Plan Steering Committee meeting last night in Pahala. County planner Ron Whitmore noted that farmland around the island has been subdivided and that its market value is based on houses allowed. As more houses are allowed on farmland, the land becomes more costly to purchase. He said there are many examples of houses on agricultural land around the island with little farming going on. 
     The example of Moa`ula coffee lands where much of the famous Ka`u Coffee is grown by farmers who created a new economy after the sugar company shut down in 1996 was given as a place where subdivision is planned. The land has a Project Unit Development Plan approval from the county. It allows subdivision of the land in small coffee plantation-size units and also the construction of houses on the lots. The idea, according to Chris Manfredi who worked on the Project Unit Development approvals and spoke at the meeting last night, was to allow houses on each farm but keep the land in coffee around the houses. He suggested that CC&R’s – Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions attached to the deeds – could keep the land in farming.
     Whether Ka`u Coffee farmers could afford to buy the farms became the question. Steering Committee member and state Board of Agriculture Board member Michelle Galimba said that she thought coffee farmers are at the stage in the development of their coffee businesses where they want to buy their farms.
How to keep farm land affordable was a topic at a Ka`u CDP meeting yesterday.
Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
     John Cross, of Olson Trust, also a Steering Committee member, said that coffee farmers who in the last few years started growing on Olson Trust land at the edge of Wood Valley may also want to buy their farms in five to seven years, which could be done with a Project Unit Development plan. He asked that the Ka`u Community Development Plan have minimal restrictions on allowing houses in such a development. One control that could keep more land in farming rather than housing is a restriction on how many houses would be allowed based on water availability. The Steering Committee agreed to work on the issue, including that the water restriction be changed to allow for more houses.
     Ron Ebert, a volunteer fire captain and steering committee member, said he was concerned about subdivision of land that would waive good roads and other amenities and stated safety as a concern.
     Patti Barry, a realtor and member of the steering committee, said she supports the idea of CC&Rs being used to keep land in farming and also suggested that there may be a way to sell the land to farmers already on the coffee lands. She gave an example, however, of CC&Rs at Ocean View that require each landowner to keep 4,000 gallons of water on each property for drinking water and firefighting, a measure that is not enforced.
     Planner Whitmore illustrated that CC&Rs can be changed over time by owners of the subdivided farm and house lots.
     Regarding keeping the price of ag land down, Whitmore said that when waivers are made to allow substandard roads and avoid cost of basic infrastructure, and the land use becomes residential, residents commonly ask government for the improvements, and costs can wind up being covered by the taxpayers.
     Whitmore said that various tools for making ag land accessible for farming have their advantages and disadvantages. Concerning Project Unit Developments, according to the Planning Department handout circulated last night, Potential Advantages include opportunity to own smaller lots for high-value crops and farm dwellings and more affordable lots due to lack of infrastructure. Potential disadvantages include speculative residential sprawl away from town infrastructure and services, loss of agricultural land to “gentlemen estates,” higher property values, higher taxes and future public costs in excess of tax revenue.
      See more on the Ka`u Community Development Plan at kaucdp.info.
      Another meeting will be held Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Ocean View Community Center when the Steering Committee will discuss special permits and development there.

TROPICAL STORM HILDA’S FORECAST PATH has moved south of South Point. The storm is losing strength quickly and will become a tropical depression before passing near the Big Island. Although Hilda will not hit the island directly, a tropical storm watch remains in effect, and a flash flood watch goes into effect at 6 p.m. Heavy rain is still considered to be likely the biggest impact from Hilda. With the center of the storm south of the island, the wettest and strongest northwest part of the storm has the potential to dump between six and 12 inches of rain, and 18 inches in localized areas, with winds up to 38 miles per hour. 
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

NEXTERA ENERGY INC. CLAIMS that its merger with Hawaiian Electric Co. will result in $1 billion in customer savings and economic benefits in the first five years, according to a story by Duane Shimogawa in Pacific Business News
      “As we are in the beginning stages of the PUC review process, we are confident we will find more common ground as we further demonstrate the strong public interest benefits of this merger,” NextEra spokesman Rob Gould told PBN. “To that end, our filed merger plan anticipates almost $1 billion in customer savings and economic benefits for Hawai`i in the first five years after closing, and we have already made commitments to customer cost savings, employees and community causes that compare favorably to other utility mergers. But what this story is really about is Hawai`i’s future — a more affordable, 100 percent renewable energy future — and we firmly believe that this merger represents the best way to get there.”
      Gould’s statement follows Hawai`i Consumer Advocate’s rejection of the proposed deal Monday, saying the Florida-based company failed to prove that the sale would result in significant benefits to consumers.
      In its acquisition application submitted to the Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission in January, NextEra said the merger would save customers about $60 million and that there will be no request for an increase in general base rates for at least four years following the closure of the deal.
      See bizjournals.com/pacific.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Ka`u farmers can learn about cacao at an upcoming conference.
BIG ISLAND CACAO CONFERENCE, sponsored by Hawai`i County’s Department of Research and Development in cooperation with the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, is coming up Friday, Aug. 28. This all-day event is intended to bring together industry members, those interested in joining the industry and those who provide support services in order to build relationships and a comprehensive list of resources. 
      The conference begins with registration at 8 a.m. and includes a working lunch. There is no fee to attend this conference, but registration is required, and attendance is limited to 100. Register at http://bicacaoconferenceregistration.weebly.com
      The agenda can also be found at the weebly site.
      Email kiersten@hawaii.edu for more information.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

KA`U SCENIC BYWAY COMMITTEE meets tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Na`alehu Methodist Church. The public is invited. Email richmorrow@alohabroadband.net for more information.

Volcano Art Center features British artist Banksy's film tomorrow.
Photo from VAC
VOLCANO ART CENTER’S Niaulani Campus features British artist Banksy’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop with host Elizabeth Miller tomorrow at 7 p.m. 
      In her film, Banksy, an ironic social critic and famously anonymous British street icon, introduces viewers to the underground world of street art and to some of the young people whose talent and methods have been noteworthy enough to earn the admiration of their peers and to catch the attention of the art world.
      The film was a 2010 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature. A discussion follows, plus a look at some examples of Banksy’s art.
      Call 967-8222 for more information.

ALOHA FRIDAY CULTURAL DEMONSTRATIONS are held each week from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Volcano Art Center Gallery’s front porch. This week’s offerings include lei making with Randy Lee. Free; park entrance fees apply.
      Call 967-8222 for more information.


BUSINESS SPACE IS AVAILABLE for rent at the open location where Kama`aina Kuts and Styles by Elise are located in Na`alehu. Call Corrine at 937-1840 for more information.

See kaucalendar.com/KauCalendar_August2015.pdf.
See kaucalendar.com/Directory2015.swf
and kaucalendar.com/Directory2015.pdf.

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