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Mayor Kim Responds to Hilo Farmers Market Closure

Tarps removed from the Hilo Farmers Market.

Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim released the following statement on Thursday, March 29, 2018, regarding the county’s order removing the tarps and tents from the Hilo Farmers Market:

“The information out there regarding the closure of the Farmer’s Market in Hilo is so wrong and misleading that it prompts this open response,” said Mayor Kim. “The public should know of truth that their government has sincerely tried to help Mr. De La Cruz comply with the county, state and federal laws to keep the market in operation. A commitment was made and kept by the county to help keep it open and develop a place to be proud of. The choices made that caused this closure and hardships imposed on the tenants were not made by your government.

“I will be more than willing to meet with anyone to discuss the history of this closure.”

Hawai‘i County:

Farmers Market Background

The Hilo Farmers Market is an important part of downtown Hilo. It has been successful due to the diversity and freshness of the offerings of its vendors. The county has tried to work with the owner for years to bring the properties into compliance with building, fire, and zoning codes. The conditions were allowed to persist for all these years in deference to constantly changing plans proposed by the owner. Continuous efforts over the past year by the county to guide the owner into compliance were unsuccessful due to delay or no action on the owner’s part.

The only way to finally achieve results was to enforce the notice of violation that the owner received in June of 2017 which clearly stated the consequences if the proper permits were not acquired in a timely fashion. This enforcement was done in fairness and responsibility to all others who follow county, state, and federal requirements.

Violations of County Code and Regulations

  • No building permits. The Farmers Market has been operating for over 20 years without any building permits.  Temporary structures, such as large tents greater than 120 s.f., used for commercial purposes are required to have a temporary building permit which is good for 180 days only.
  • Non-flammable tent material. Tents larger than 750 square feet are required to have non-flammable or non-combustible tent material.  The Fire Department reviewed and approved proposed tent material.  The owner just had to place the order.
  • Non-permitted electrical wiring. Electrical wiring was energized, used, and operated without required electrical inspections and approval of electrical work performed.
  • Extended hours of operation. Farmers Market operations exceeded two days a week as limited by Special Management Area Minor Permit No. 54.
  • Non-permitted sign. A large sign was installed without acquiring the required permits.
  • No setbacks between tents and property boundary. Temporary structures are required to have a 10 foot setback from the property boundaries and 10 foot spacing between tents.

Failure to Construct Permanent Structure as Required

The owner had 10 years to construct a permanent structure as required by SMA approval. The deadline of March 2018 has not been met. The farmers market owner initially received Planning Department approval for a permanent structure in 2008. A condition for approval required completion of construction within five years. In 2013, the owner requested an extension for another five years. The extension was granted with a new deadline of March 18, 2018.

County Assistance Provided

  • Meeting with the Mayor. On Jan.31, 2017, and Feb. 17, 2017, the mayor met with the owner to determine the status of plans to meet the March 2018 deadline and offered assistance to facilitate development.  The mayor assigned an executive assistant to work with the owner.
  • Issues Identified. The executive assistant coordinated with various departments to identify the types, sequence and estimated processing time of permits. Since the farmers market is located in the special flood hazard zone exposed to tsunami and high waves, one major issue was how to comply with these strict standards. Working with the Department of Public Works, a feasible solution was determined that allowed for a simplified structure.
  • Schedule and Budget. The executive assistant helped the owner to assess how much the owner could finance to design and construct a permanent structure based on the substantial total annual rent income the owner receives from the vendors. Additional help also identified steps to start construction of a permanent structure including development of a schedule to meet the March 2018 deadline. The schedule required prompt action by the owner.

Critical and Timely Actions Needed by Owner to Meet Schedule

  • Hire an architect to design a permanent structure and prepare the building permit application.
  • Secure financing for design and construction.
  • Apply for amendment to SMA permits for preferred hours of operation and revised design of structure.
  • Secure Plan Approval for commercial operations.

No Action by Owner

On May 24, 2017, the mayor and several departments met with the owner to assess his progress. Despite assurances from the owner to carry out critical tasks identified in the last meeting, it became evident that the owner made no progress. Consequently, the county issued notice of violations in June 2017 requiring the owner to obtain temporary structure permits or submit plans for a permanent structure. The assessed fines for violations and failure to meet deadlines were clearly outlined in the violation notice.

Time Extensions Granted

Three time extensions were granted over a 6-month period through Dec. 31, 2017, to provide time for the owner to comply. At the end of December 2017, the owner submitted applications for temporary structures. These permits were approved but the owner has not picked up the approved permits.

Order Issued

To motivate action, the only recourse was to issue an order imposing fines as declared in the June 2017 violation notice.

The County of Hawaiʻi has worked closely with the owner and made numerous efforts to help preserve the Hilo Farmers Market and bring it into compliance. It is incumbent upon the owner to continue to work with the county in a timely manner to secure the necessary permits to operate his business.

The county is committed to assisting the owner in developing a permanent farmers market that can be a fixture of the Hilo landscape, provide a safe environment for the community to shop and help make Hilo a beautiful and nice place to live.

County Orders Hilo Farmers Market to Take Down Tents

The County of Hawai‘i has ordered Hilo Farmers Market to remove the tarps and the tents that have been its primary structures for over 33 years or face $4,000 in fines for each day they remain in place.

Hilo Farmers Market.

According to Keith Del La Cruz, owner and manager of the market, Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim ordered the removal.  When Del La Cruz was asked why the order was given, he said, “That is a good question.”

When asked if the tents would be replaced or what would happen with the vendors, Del La Cruz stated:

“We have been processing with the county for the last seven months for notices and violations. Since June of 2017, we have had our permits and are working with them [the county] in good faith to try and resolve the notices and violations…  and to submit drawings for a new farmers market roof. So just in the last several days, we have received a county order to take down the tarps or get fined each day $4,000 per day.”

Workers removed Hilo Farmers Market tarps on Sunday, March 25, 2018

The market plans to remain open; however, vendors will need to provide their own pop-up tents.

Hilo Farmers Market.

The market owner would still like to process its permits for tenants and a permanent roof. Those application processes are ongoing.

Del La Cruz remains hopeful the county will expedite the permitting process so that there is not a long-term effect on the market “being in a new mode.”

Hilo Farmers Market.

Del La Cruz has been trying to secure financing for a permanent roof; however, the economy has made it very difficult and the order to take down the tents does not include any assistance in securing funding.

Hilo Farmers Market: the end of an era.

Del La Cruz doesn’t know if any notices have been given to any other farmers markets on the island.

Hawai‘i’s Visitor Statistics Results for 2017

George D. Szigeti

The president and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) George D. Szigeti, issued the following statement commenting on Hawai‘i’s visitor statistics results for 2017.

“What tourism generated for Hawai‘i in 2017, highlighted by record totals in the five major categories that convey the industry’s importance to residents and the state’s economy, is rewarding and should not be taken for granted. It’s especially heartening that tourism is supporting 204,000 jobs in Hawai‘i, knowing how the industry’s success helps families, businesses and communities statewide.

“We are grateful for the efforts of Hawai‘i’s tourism industry partners to constantly improve their facilities and product offerings, and the outstanding service that our tourism professionals provide to visitors coming from around the world. HTA’s marketing programs drive travel demand for Hawai‘i, but it’s the warmth and aloha of our people throughout the islands that keep them coming back.

“We are hopeful of sustaining tourism’s momentum in 2018 for the benefit of Hawai‘i’s families and the state’s economy. HTA’s Global Marketing Team is communicating with travel industry partners in Hawai‘i’s source markets on a continual basis to maintain travelers’ confidence in the booking of trips to the Hawaiian Islands. Our message to global travelers continues to be that Hawai‘i is the safest, cleanest and most welcoming destination in the world.”

Female Rainbow Falls Drowning Victim Identified

Hawai‘i Island Police are investigating the possible drowning of a 62-year-old woman and are continuing the search for a 61-year-old man after they were swept down the Wailuku River.

At 12:39 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, police and fire personnel responded to the Rainbow Falls State Park for a report of a couple who fell into the water while crossing the river above the falls.

The woman was found in the pool below the falls and was extricated by the fire department’s helicopter. She was then taken by ambulance to the Hilo Medical Center where she later died at 4:25 p.m. She has been identified as Gladys Novinger of Spring Valley, Calif.

The missing man has not yet been located and search efforts were suspended this morning due to dangerous conditions. His identity is being withheld pending notification of his next-of-kin.

Detectives with the Criminal Investigation Section are continuing the investigation into the woman’s death as an unattended death. An autopsy was conducted this morning, (November 27), but the exact cause of her death is being deferred pending toxicology results.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or have any other information about it is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or Detective Dean Uyetake of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 961-2379 or Dean.Uyetake@hawaiicounty.gov.

Rainbow Falls Claims Two Lives

The Hawaiʻi Fire Department has confirmed that two people lost their lives on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, near Rainbow Falls.

The Hawaii Fire Department continued their search for a male body on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2017. Big Island Now photo

Four people went swimming above Rainbow Falls and two of them got swept away. One female victim was rescued at the base of Rainbow Falls and a search continues for the male victim.

The fire chief who was on hand on Sunday, Nov. 26, at Rainbow Falls, believes that they were tourists from the mainland.

Saturday, The Hawai‘i Fire Department arrived 12:40 p.m., and within the first 10 to 15 minutes, witnesses reported that a man and a woman were having difficulty swimming in a pond above of Rainbow Falls. The two were seen going under and not seen again.

The female was found unconscious in the water below Rainbow Falls yesterday.

Today, an aerial, ground and dive search continued in the pond and areas upstream of Rainbow Falls for the missing male but no body has been found.

Statement by George D. Szigeti, President and CEO, Hawaii Tourism Authority

George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), issued the following statement commenting on Hawaii’s visitor statistics results for August 2017.

George D. Szigeti

“Knowing summer is the peak period for leisure travel globally, our State’s tourism industry partners deserve a collective thank you for how they continued to elevate Hawaii as a premier destination experience in August. The solid increases in visitor spending reported for all four major islands was a notable highlight.

“Two key economic figures for the first eight months of 2017 reveal how fortunate our State’s tourism industry has been this year. Through August 2017, visitor spending statewide is at $11.34 billion and the State tax revenue generated by tourism is $1.32 billion.

“By comparison, when Hawaii was starting to emerge from the Great Recession in 2010, the tourism industry realized $11.01 billion in total visitor spending and generated $1.05 billion in State tax revenue for the entire year. With four months to go in 2017, our tourism industry has already surpassed both of the full-year totals from just seven years ago.

“The natural disasters that struck Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands these past few weeks remind us again that we can never take tourism in Hawaii for granted, and that our State’s future well-being could be suddenly altered. Going forward, we must strive for a balance that allows Hawaii’s tourism industry to continue thriving while seeking sustainable solutions that perpetuate culture, preserve natural resources and supports the quality of life we all want.”

Hawaii’s Visitor Statistics Results for First Half of 2017

George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), issued the following statement commenting on Hawaii’s visitor statistics results for the first six months of 2017.

“Our State’s economy benefited from the consistently strong travel demand that Hawaii realized in the first half of the year, especially from the mainland U.S., Japan and Canada. Visitor spending statewide grew by 8.7 percent through the first six months, which strengthened Hawaii’s economy as a whole and also generated $976 million in State tax revenue, an increase of $78.3 million.

“These statewide results and Hawaii’s ability to successfully compete with other global destinations is shared by all of our tourism stakeholders and industry professionals who make being in the Hawaiian Islands such a wonderfully enjoyable experience for visitors from around the world.

“As global competition expands and diversifies giving travelers more options, the sharing of the Hawaiian culture, the warmth of our aloha spirit lifestyle and goodwill of our residents distinguishes Hawaii as a place to come enjoy and experience, in many cases, again and again. Mahalo to everyone who contributes to tourism’s vitality and the benefits it brings to communities and families statewide.”

Tourism to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Creates $199,923,400 in Economic Benefits to Local Economy

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 1,887,580 visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park in 2016 spent $159,195,500 in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,917 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $199,923,400.

Visitors observe Kīlauea summit lava lake last month from the Jaggar Museum observation deck, open 24 hours a day in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo by Janice Wei

“It’s exciting to see the steady increase in both visitation to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, and the consistent economic benefit park visitors provide to our Hawai‘i Island community in the way of jobs, and their spending,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “We noticed the increase in visitation from the start of 2016, which marked the 100th anniversary of both the National Park Service and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. When lava from Kīlauea reached the ocean last summer, coupled with the ease of steady viewing of the summit lava lake, visitation continued to climb. We’ve seen consecutive increases in both spending and visitation at Hawai‘i Volcanoes since from 2009,” Orlando said.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the NPS. The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally; 271,544 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $ 34.9 billion.

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5%).

Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse.

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. To learn more about national parks in Hawai‘i and how the National Park Service works with communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/Hawaii.

Wanted: Big Island Locals for Grassroots’ “Adopt a Visitor” Program

Big Island resident Tim Sullivan has been quite successful in bridging the gap between many Japanese visitors that come to Hawaii and local community groups and projects that have happened on the Big Island.

A while back, he and I exchanged some dialog about tourism here on the Big Island and a way to possibly get folks to come to the Big Island and see the Big Island in a real way… not just some touristy way.

He brought up the subject again today in his blog posting “Straddling Paradigms: Redistribution of Wealth Through Grassroots’ Capitalism” where he ask the 5 following questions based on Peter Apo’s Pono Prism:

  1. How does the activity make Hawaii a better place?
  2. How does the activity create opportunities for prosperity for all segments of the community?
  3. How does the activity help connect the community’s past to its future?
  4. How does the activity bring dignity to the community and the people who live around it?
  5. How does the activity insure that the people who live in and around it can continue to live there?

Tim has some great answers to these questions that you can view on his blog.

He also surprised me by his apparent willingness to possibly embrace Social-Media and online tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

…Love it or hate it, on-line social media looks like it’s here to stay. Most folks I know seem to be passionately for or against: got some friends who believe Facebook is the Devil (digitally) incarnate, and others who swear by it (my two sons included)…

Well with the recent announcement that the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau is in Los Angeles next week promoting Hawaii in the following fashion:

…To activate the social media network in Los Angeles, HVCB will be reaching out to bloggers, podcasters, and emerging media enthusiasts to assist them in developing content about the islands to share with their audiences. On the evening of September 2, HVCB and Marriott Resorts Hawaii will co-host a “tweetup” (gathering of Twitter users) at The Whisper Restaurant and Lounge at The Grove to further promote Hawaii’s uniqueness as a vacation destination to the area’s most active new media users…

I think now is a good time to really look at what we folks locally at a grassroots level can do to help our islands economy out in the long run.

Not only that… I need a job!

So go check out his post and be sure to get all the way down to “The Bottom Line“.

The Roaming Gnome Arrives in Hawaii

I’ll be following the Travelocity Roaming Gnome on the top of my blog while he visits the Hawaii Islands.

If anyone is interested in possibly meeting the Roaming Gnome along the way… I’m gonna try and keep close contact with him while he’s on the Big Island.

The Traveloicty Roaming Gnome Get's Leid (Click for other pictures of him getting "leid")

The Traveloicty Roaming Gnome Get's Leid (Click for other pictures of him getting "leid")

Hawaii Tourism Authority Hopes to Boost Hawaii Tourism With Blogging Campaign

Someone asked me if I was paid to be a contributor on this page of the So Much More Hawaii website.

Twitter Profile Picture

Twitter Profile

I can honestly say that I wasn’t.  You can ask fellow FBI Blogger @LeslieLang if we were paid as she was also featured on the site.

I don’t even know the methodology of choosing the twitter users for this project, and I don’t know why my name is listed as a popular tag on the site.

My profile was on there long before the Big Island Visitors Bureau and the Hilton Waikoloa offered a room to me.  I just saw the KHON@ website and I guess $15,000 was spent on the development of this site.

It seems like a very  small investment on the future returns to this island that the project will have.

KHON2 NEWS:

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is hoping to give the world something to talk about.

The HTA has embraced a new social media campaign.

Eight internationally known bloggers were brought to Hawaii to experience the Aloha State, then blog about it.

It is one of the most famous beaches in the world…Waikiki.

But there is so much more to Hawaii.

Like a fruit stand along Kauai’s north shore. One of the many things our eight guest bloggers were exposed to during their “tour”.

“They went all over, again it was a part of so much more Hawaii where we’ve uncovered these little niche things to do. So they kind of use that as a road map, in looking for different experiences” says David Uchiyama, Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The guest bloggers had chaperones.

“We pretty much allowed them to venture out there with our local bloggers. You know the local bloggers knew what kind of message we were trying to get out. And so the local bloggers were huge in terms of being a part of this whole effort.”

It’s a first for the authority.

The eight bloggers reach thousands, but it’s the sharing that counts more.

“We know that people talk to their friends and relatives to decide on their trip. Well social networking has become that vehicle that has become another friend.”

Hoping the venture will make sweet music to a new batch of POTENTIAL Hawaii visitors.

“The other thing that was good about this vehicle is that it touches on a younger market for us. We’re trying to introduce Hawaii to the younger set. And this possibly can come into the mix there too.”

And with the tightening economy..and budget.. the latest venture makes fiscal sense according to the H.T.A.

“We spent about $15,000 the majority of it went towards building the site itself, the ‘So much more Hawaii site.” And then money was used for the coordination.”

The new site highlighting all their adventures is – WWW.SOMUCHMOREHAWAII.COM.

17 Year Old Exchange Student Drowns at Hapuna Today

On Sunday (February 8), personnel from the Hawaii Police Department and the Hawaii Fire Department responded to a possible drowning at Hapuna Beach Park reported by county lifeguards.

A 17-year-old boy was found unresponsive in shallow waters off the beach, where lifeguards retrieved the body. Lifeguards immediately started cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. Fire rescue personnel took the boy to North Hawaii Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:39 a.m.

The victim is a visiting student from Japan here in Hawaii on a student exchange program. He was with fellow students and teachers on a field trip at the beach park when the incident occurred. His name is being withheld pending notification of family members.