No coop for you: Council nixes backyard chickens


Hawaii Island residents won’t be getting the chance to raise their own hens and harvest their eggs in nonagricultural areas.

The Hawaii County Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday, meeting at the West Hawaii Civic Center, defeated a measure to allow chicken coops in residential areas. Only Hilo Councilmen Dennis Onishi and Donald Ikeda, who introduced the measure, voted in favor of the bill, which would have gone to the county’s two planning commissions for further review before any additional council votes. Six council members voted against the measure, and Puna Councilman Fred Blas was absent.

Council Chairman Dominic Yagong said he didn’t agree with Ikeda’s proposal because people choose to live in residential areas to stay away from agricultural activities.

“You begin to muddy the waters when it comes to zoning,” Yagong said. “I do believe our zoning works. We should keep it that way. Once you meddle into that, it can become a problem.”

Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann agreed, adding no one from Kohala testified before the committee or asked him to support the measure.

Ikeda said Hilo neighborhoods are already full of chickens, and he was just trying to help people grow their own food.

“They’re concerned about the food they’re eating today,” Ikeda said. “They want to control what they’re eating. Everything is turning toward natural food. I can understand why people that are more health conscious want to raise their own food.”

Yes, he added, chickens make noise, but not as much as some testifiers said.

Onishi told committee members they were “jumping the gun” by not giving the windward and leeward planning commissions a chance to consider the measure.

“We should at least let them have their own process,” Onishi said. “If it is a negative, we can vote it down at the next council meeting. We’re not even giving it a chance. This bill might be good with other amendments.”

This was the last committee meeting of this County Council; new members will take office in December.

The Finance Committee moved ahead a measure to add a $20 to $25 million multipurpose center in Hilo to the capital improvements project list, over the committee chairwoman’s objections.

Hilo Councilman Donald Ikeda introduced the measure last month to add a 10,000-seat multipurpose center to the projects list. The request was for an initial $500,000 for planning, but the project’s financial impact statement estimated the county would need $5 million for land acquisition and $20 million for construction.

“We have outgrown the Edith Kanakaole stadium,” Ikeda said. “Merrie Monarch could use twice the capacity we have right now.”

Onishi agreed, and said the county might be able to get land for free, if the governor would select and sign over a parcel via executive order. Yagong said he agrees East Hawaii needs a new stadium or some kind of facility for sporting and other events, but said he would like to see the county go through a planning process, like it is doing for the Old Kona Airport and Kealakehe Regional Park.

But South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, cast her vote against the request.

“Hilo has two events centers,” Ford said, acknowledging the venues are not in the best shape. “I’m having difficulty adding debt for something that isn’t health, safety and welfare.”

Ikeda said he was surprised to hear Ford express any objections. Despite being listed on the capital improvements project list to begin in 2013, he said it could take years to get started.

“Let’s get real,” Ikeda said. “I’ve had things on the books for over eight years and it’s still not done. … It’s a wish list. It’s going to be built when we have money, when we have the proper land.”

Ford cast the only negative vote on the item, which the new council will consider next month.