Farmers market may return


HILO — A weekly farmers market may be returning to Captain Cook, two years after it was moved because of complaints about traffic.

The Hawaii County Council Planning Committee on Tuesday is scheduled to consider a bill by South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford allowing the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden to add a farmers market on its Mamalohoa Highway road frontage adjacent to its visitors center.

The committee meets at 10:30 a.m. at the West Hawaii Civic Center, with videoconferencing links to council chambers in Hilo and the Waimea and Pahoa council offices.

Ford says amendments to her bill proposed by Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd and approved by the Leeward Planning Commission might be too onerous and could make it difficult for the farmers market to proceed.

The amendments limit the use of the one-acre site to a visitors center or a farmers market and require significant road improvements for any other use. Improvements would include an intersection with Mamalahoa Highway, 20-foot wide pavement lane and concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk, drainage improvements and any required relocation of utilities meeting with the approval of the Department of Public Works.

If the farmers market or other use generates more than 50 peak hour trips, a traffic impact analysis report must be submitted that meets the approval of DPW. The report could trigger the same road and drainage improvements required for uses other than a farmers market and visitors center. The gardens logged 13,577 visitors last year, according to its website.

“Any farmers market is going to generate over that amount,” said Ford. “It looks like they’re trying to get the applicant to pay for road improvements the county should have paid for years ago.”

Still, Ford said, traffic could be a problem there, especially if the farmers market is held on weekdays.

Peter Van Dyke, manager of the Greenwell Gardens, said initial plans are to hold the farmers market only on Sundays. Currently it’s being held at the Kealakekua Ranch Center on those days, he said.

Van Dyke said he became comfortable with the proposed amendments, after they were explained to him by Planning staff.

“Fifty trips seems to me seems like a lot of traffic, and we’d be a long way from that,” Van Dyke said.