Wendy Mitchell 0

Waiono Ranch Road Petition

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We, the property owners of Waiono Meadows, a small agricultural community in North Kona, petition the Leeward Planning Commission to deny approval of the Special Use Permit (SUP) application (SPP-21-000222) submitted by Douglas and Kathryn Hickey of Sunshower Farms LLC. The Hickey’s are, again, requesting a special permit to operate a venue for numerous large and small-scale weddings and other events, along with the construction of an events pavilion on their 20-acre CPR, agriculture-zoned parcel (TMK #7-6-002: 028-0001). It is important to note that their proposed map of their intended pavilion is inaccurate and incomplete. It is not a professional survey map with flood channels annotated. In fact, it is believed there has never been a survey conducted of the flood channels up here.

As you’ll recall, the Hickey’s withdrew their first SUP application back in October 2020 after the Leeward Planning Commission deferred their decision during a hearing held on September 21, 2020. Prior to that hearing, the county Planning Department had recommended in their “PROPOSED FINDINGS OF FACT; CONCLUSIONS OF LAW; AND DECISION AND ORDER” document that “the proposed use is not unusual and reasonable and and does not promote the objectives of Chapter 205 HRS. Thus, Special Permit Application No. 20-000218 is hereby DENIED.”

Information contained within this second application indicates the Hickey’s are now proposing to build a slightly smaller-in-size events pavilion. They have provided very specific numbers on the maximum number of annual events and maximum number of attendees per event. This, while knowing it would be nearly impossible to monitor these promised specifics without someone out there counting cars and bodies and keeping track of the number of events they’ve hosted. They have also offered some modifications to Waiono Ranch Road. In their application, they present a strong case for the economic benefit not only to the vendors of their business but also to the county via a detailed income analysis from increased tourism to Kona and the Big Island, in general. It is important to note that of the dozens of letters of support the Hickey’s have attached to their SUP, it is believed only one of those persons own property up here. It is believed nearly all the others are people/vendors who could potentially benefit from the proposed wedding and events venue e.g. caterers, florists, bakers, musicians, hair stylists.

As a reminder, property owners and farm workers alike can only access their farms and properties using this single-lane Waiono Ranch Road. We are more than familiar with hazards of our narrow, substandard farm road and the numerous blind spots, potholes, steep grades, and flooding issues that already affect the safety of drivers, passengers, and livestock. With no Homeowner Association, there is no road maintenance agreement in place. This, in addition to other safety and liability issues that include historic flooding events in Holualoa, is cause for major concern among property owners. Flooding of the road often occurs several times a year; this, too, significantly damages the road and jeopardizes the health and safety of those navigating it.

The on-line ePetition sent out to everyone back in September 2020 (in opposition to SUP application #1) was signed by nearly every owner of property accessing Waiono Ranch Road. We felt very encouraged by that. The substandard road remains a huge concern for us. It is believed the Hickey’s proposed modifications to the road is not enough to turn our substandard, dangerous road into one that should be considered safe and up-to-par. In terms of impact to surrounding properties and all of us who utilize Waiono Ranch Road, the substantial increase in vehicles — hypothetically occurring multiple days/evenings a week year-round - WILL adversely affect us. Should the County approve the Hickey’s SUP application, each of us property owners may very well be opened-up to potential liability related to the Hickey’s commercial wedding party/other events business by inebriated or otherwise-careless party attendees. The County of Hawaii may, also, be a potential target of a lawsuit.

It is important to note that Waiono Ranch Road is, itself, a separately-owned parcel. It is designated as Lot #11, and owned by “Golden Bay LLC.” It has been confirmed with the owners of this parcel that they never been personally contacted, consulted, or notified of the Hickey’s pending SUP application and proposed modification of the road. The law requires the Hickey’s to notify all owners of property within 500 feet of their property.

We, the property owners and neighbors to Kate and Doug Hickey, strongly oppose this Special Use Permit for weddings and other events, and urge the Leeward Planning Commission to immediately DENY this application. It is our hope the Commission will join us in protecting our Ag-zoned properties. We invite you to personally take a drive and view the road; we feel confident you will then understand our concerns and why we feel so strongly about it.

We respectfully ask for your careful consideration of our concerns. Mahalo Nui Loa.

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