People gather around the Paleaku Garden Peace Sanctuary’s Galaxy Garden in October 2007. The Leeward Planning Commission on Thursday approved a special use permit for the sanctuary to hold some special events and sell plants and souvenirs at the South Kona botanical gardens. (WEST HAWAII TODAY/FILE PHOTO)
The owner of a South Kona botanical garden received permission Thursday to offer retail sales and host events.
Leeward Planning Commissioners signed off on Paleaku Garden Peace Sanctuary’s special permit request Thursday morning over the objection of one neighbor. Planning officials said the application would allow the sanctuary to host weddings, memorial services and small community meetings, as well as display information about plants in the greenhouses and sell some souvenir items, such as coffee, macadamia nuts, plants and statuary.
Planning Program Manager Daryn Arai said Paleaku owner Barbara DeFranco offered to limit attendance at events to 75 people.
Jane Yangson, who lives across the street, was the only testifier on the item. She asked commissioners not to allow the special permit, noting her worries about noise and increased traffic in the neighborhood.
“At times, Paleaku Gardens have had Buddhist people come over,” Yangson said. ‘They play their drums and say their chants. These go on for hours. They’re just not conducive to the area. I can foresee lots of traffic, lots of noise.”
Yangson said the gardens’ property isn’t large enough to accommodate lots of parked vehicles, either.
DeFranco said she has plenty of parking. She said she appreciated Yangson’s comments and would work with neighbors to address potential concerns about the increase in property use. DeFranco’s consultant noted the gardens had previously been hosting such events, until DeFranco learned the events were not permitted uses of the property. She ceased those events and began the special permit process.
Planning commissioners added a condition to the permit restating the commission’s authority to revoke a permit if DeFranco and the sanctuary exceed noise limitations, allow large buses or otherwise fail to follow permit conditions. Arai said the department is already empowered to investigate complaints, but sometimes department officials find it useful to include the condition as a reminder to the applicant and to neighbors who may have concerns in the future.
“These are legitimate concerns that are well-taken,” Commission Chairwoman Geraldine Giffin said.
DeFranco, in response to a question from a commissioner, said the gardens would not be allowing independent vendors to operate on the grounds. Caterers will bring food in for events, she added.
She described the grounds, which include botanical gardens and a 100-foot galaxy garden, a replica of the galaxy through which visitors can walk. Visitors pay an admission fee, she added.
“We’re nondenominational, nonsectarian with our goal of promoting peace,” she added.
In other business, the commission revoked a special permit for Mana Christian Ohana, which allowed establishment of a church and related improvements on about 2.5 acres in Waimea. The church asked for the permit to be revoked, because they are no longer planning to build in that location, Arai said.