Bill would ease rules for smaller farmers markets


A new bill would make it easier for farmers markets to be set up in private subdivisions.

Introduced by Puna Councilman Zendo Kern, the legislation allows homeowner associations to establish markets without obtaining a special use permit.

The markets could host no more than 25 vendors and would have to occur at community buildings or facilities maintained by the association.

Kern said he believes the special permit process is unnecessary for markets of that scale.

Those permits require approval through one of Hawaii County’s planning commissions.

“The concept is to make it easier for folks in the community to be able to come together” and sell their products, Kern said.

“I want to keep it small, keep it grassroots,” he said. “If somebody has a want to do more then they would go in for a special use permit.”

Kern said markets help build a “sense of community,” and he believes community associations make good hosts.

“At this time, I just thought community associations made the most sense,” he said. We have a lot of community associations on the island. I felt like it’s a good step.”

The proposed legislation, Bill 96, will go before the council Planning Committee on Tuesday. The committee meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. in the Hilo council chambers.

Kern said he is also working on legislation to create an alternative building code as well as establish a section in the building code just for residential buildings.

An alternative building code would expand the type of materials that can be used for construction as long as they are structurally sound, he said.

Kern said any proposal he introduces would only apply to rural lots, possibly 5 acres or larger, and require approval of the county and an architect.

“It would allow for different building materials, styles of buildings, and open it up to whatever the homeowner, the home builder … can come up with,” he said.

Kern said he didn’t want to comment on what types of materials would be allowed under such a proposal, noting it is still a work in progress.

It wouldn’t be the first time the council has considered such a proposal.

References to alternative building materials were included in a draft of the building code previously under consideration, but were later removed before adoption in 2012.

Kern said he also hopes to make the building code more flexible and easier to understand for home builders.

For example, he believes it should allow for single-wall construction. Insulation should also be optional, he said.

Kern said he wants to make the code more suitable for the county’s environment and give builders more options.

He said he is discussing his proposals with county Department of Public Works.

He said he’s hoping to introduce them as bills as “soon as possible.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.