Big houses with zero connection to farming have been popping up all over Hawaii's agricultural lands in recent decades.
Now the state Legislature is working to exacerabate the problem by advancing a bill that would authorize "tiny houses" — mobile or stationary structures under 500 square feet — on ag land.
Though these "tiny houses" are being promoted as a way to "help" farmers by housing their workers, the potential for abuse is huge, especially given the inability and/or unwillingness of county governments to enforce the existing state law pertaining to farm dwellings.
Currently, the bill is written so that it would apply only to the Big Island, though it won't be long before Maui County meets the criteria of "a population of more than 180,000 but less than 250,000."
Neither the state Department of Agriculture nor the Hawaii County Planning Department support the bill, which would let anyone who pulls a business license build an unspecified number of tiny homes. Both entities submitted testimony in opposition, with Big Island Planning Director Michael Yee noting the "great potential" for "unintended abuse" of ag lands.
That's being diplomatic. The ag land abuse proposed here is very much intentional. Consider, for example, one of its proponents, as featured in a recent Civil Beat article:
Eila Algood is both a poet and a farmer. On her 34 acres of agricultural land in North Kohala, Algood plants trees to help reforestation efforts, and harvests eggs from her15 chickens to sell. Algood says she can’t afford to hire the farmhands necessary to expand her operation because paying employees a living wage in Kohala is not within her means.
Fifteen chickens and trees to help reforestation efforts? That's not farming by any stretch of the imagination. This bill is simply a ploy to put sub-standard rental housing on ag land, resulting in a proliferation of rural ghettoes and the continued erosion of the agricultural district.
If Big Island Reps. Cindy Evans and Richard Creagan are serious about helping farmers, they should stop eroding agricultural viability with their crappy bills. Instead, initiate a process of reclassifying nonproductive ag lands into the rural district, where they could be properly developed as housing.
Of course, inept legislators aren't the only ones harming real farmers and making a mockery of the ag district. The smarmy developers of the Coco Palms Resort are now trying to create a luxurious gated community of eight homes on 38 acres of ag land in Kapaa Homesteads.
GreeneWaters’ Hauiki Hui LLC purchased the project’s site for about $2.3 million earlier this year.
Dubbed Hauiki Ranch, the project, which is located on Hauiki Road in Kapaa, will also include 25 acres of common area for the community.
“This is the most beautiful 38 acres I have seen on Kauai,” Chad Waters, managing partner of GreeneWaters, told PBN. “There is a beautiful stream and waterfall that bisects throughout the property.”
Prices for the homes are expected to start in the low $900,000s.
Waters wants to take the project entirely off-grid using hydropower, Tesla rooftop solar products and “smaller-scale wind turbines.”
Stream-diverting hydropower and bird-killing wind turbines on Kauai? Where has Waters been the past few years when such proposals have been bitterly beaten back? Not to mention the community's antipathy toward gated communities.
Gee, I can't wait to see the activists attack a non-ag project for a change, instead of focusing all their fury on viable agriculture. But will they?
Meanwhile, Kauai's anti-dairy group, Friends of Mahaulepu, joined Big Island Dairy opponents in a bitch session with Gov. Ige yesterday. Never mind that the proposed Kauai dairy has a different model than the Ookala dairy, which has been supported by the Ulupono-funded Local Food Coalition. FOM's Bridget Hammerquist is keen to draw a catastrophic connection.
Hawaii County Council Chairwoman Valerie Poindexter is helping to lead the charge, using rhetoric taken straight from her anti-GMO playbook. Big Island Dairy is being targeted in part because it raises GMO corn to feed its “industrial operation.”
Bridget is incensed that the proposed Kauai dairy would “use 3 million gallons of water daily, a significant impact on a resource that is becoming increasingly more precious.”
Yet nary a word is said about all the water used by the Grand Hyatt and other Poipu hotels. Not to mention Bridget and her other johnny-come-lately homeowner pals on the southside.
We're hitting showdown time, folks. If people keep bashing ag into oblivion, it's going to be replaced with hotels, tiny home ghettoes and more luxury home gated communities. The choice is yours. Just don't be pretending that those other uses are somehow impact-free.