Wednesday | October 07, 2015
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B&B proposed for Herb Kane’s hale

Two South Kona residents are proposing to turn the late Herb Kane’s Honaunau home into a bed and breakfast.

David Cox and Michael Corbitt, who leased Kane’s Telephone Exchange Road home from the Herbert K. Kane Family Trust in August 2011, take their special permit application to the Leeward Planning Commission at 9:30 am. Thursday at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

According to the application, filed with the Planning Department, Cox and Corbitt intend to continue running the 8.5-acre avocado farm as the primary operation, with the four-room bed and breakfast as a supplemental operation to support the farm. Converting the home to a bed and breakfast requires no new construction, the applicants said, and with only four guest rooms, the property would host a maximum of eight guests. The applicants anticipated four extra vehicles, at most, parking on the property and using Telephone Exchange Road, which is a private roadway. They said they do have parking available for eight vehicles.

Kane, an artist renowned for his depictions of Hawaiian life before Western contact, lived on the farm from 1982 until his death in early 2011, the application said. Cox and Corbitt named the property Kane Plantation in the artist’s honor, and erected a plaque on the main driveway “to honor and preserve his legacy.”

Corbitt said he and Cox had been looking for a farm with the potential to become a bed and breakfast when they began the process of relocating from Washington, D.C., to Hawaii several years ago.

“It was in our heads, even from the beginning,” Corbitt said.

Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estates, which owns the land, was aware of their desire to open a bed and breakfast, Corbitt said, and was amenable to the idea.

Corbitt and Cox notified 16 neighbors, as required by county code. The only response has been positive, Corbitt said.

The home “has magnificent, unobstructed views from Kealakekua Bay to Puuhonua o Honaunau and to points further south,” the application said, noting the applicants intended to run the business as a luxury bed and breakfast.

They intend to offer a “European-style” breakfast of fresh fruit, commercial cereal and pastries, with an emphasis on locally grown and produced foods, the application said.

Cox and Corbitt are also working with the United States Department of Agriculture to restore native forest in an area of the property not currently being used for farming. They said they want to establish walking trails around the farm and forest area and provide information to guests about the plants and animals in the area.

A website for the bed and breakfast lists availability beginning in July and room rates of $145 to $255 depending on which suite is booked.

The commissioners will also take up the latest iteration of a measure to revise the county’s agricultural tourism rules. Hawaii County Council members in 2008 adopted an ordinance establishing some rules for agricultural tourism, but planning officials said that action created new questions for people working in agriculture and their neighbors.

“These operations are offering a wide variety of specialized products, produce and exotic flowers via local vending opportunities, as well as regional, national and international wholesale distributors and the Internet,” a department background report said. “To supplement their agriculture activities and in response to the growing visitor industry, a market has developed for tourism and activities showcasing the uniqueness of farming, ranching and agricultural products processing in Hawaii. However, the growth of the agricultural tourism market has somewhat resulted in adverse impact on surrounding properties and resources.”

The county council last year attempted to revise the agricultural tourism rules, without success. Puna Councilman Zendo Kern, who chairs the Planning Committee, submitted a new slate of revisions in February. Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd recommenced the county’s two planning commissions approve Kern’s proposed bill, with a few changes.

Kern proposed splitting agricultural activities into major and minor operations. He limited the number of annual visitors for minor operations to 5,000, with a maximum of 100 visitors per week. Leithead Todd suggested a maximum of 15,000 visitors a year, with no more than 350 stopping by the operation weekly.

Major tour operations, which have a minimum of $10,000 in sales a year, would be allowed up to 30,000 visitors a year.

Leithead Todd also recommended striking any requirement for the Planning Department to conduct a site visit before a major agricultural operation may open.

Other recommendations, which Leithead Todd endorsed, include:

  • limiting activities to starting no earlier than 8 a.m. and ending no later than 20 minutes after sunset, as forecast by the National Weather Service;
  • eliminating a 1,000-square-foot limit for covered decks, lanai, tents, canopies or gazebos;
  • permitting buses transporting 15 passengers or more at major operations, as long as access is available from a state or county road, or with the planning director’s approval.