By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Lawmakers on Tuesday punted on a bill that would allow Big Island residents to raise hens in residential areas, ensuring that the proposed law’s fate will rest with the new Hawaii County Council.
Under a bill introduced by outgoing Councilman Donald Ikeda, the raising of up to four hens in an enclosure would be allowed in residential areas for the purpose of egg production and home consumption.
But because this is a zoning change, the Legislative Research Bureau had indicated to Ikeda that the matter needs to be referred first to the Planning Commission.
Council members on Tuesday held a lengthy discussion about possible amendments to the bill, and of their own experiences growing up among chickens, before voting to table the matter until the next meeting of the Planning Committee on Nov. 8 — two days after a new County Council is elected in the general election.
At that November meeting, the Planning Committee will likely amend the bill and refer it to the Planning Commission for review, with the input of the Planning Department. After that, it will return to the Planning Committee and then to the full County Council.
That means there will likely be future rounds of neighbors testifying against each other about raising of chickens in residential areas. Although the bill excludes the housing of roosters, several people fed up with their neighbors testified Tuesday about how the presence of chickens in their neighborhood at all hours of the day made life miserable.
One woman even held up her iPhone to the microphone and played, for the benefit of council members, a nearly minute-long recording of roosters crowing and hens clucking.
“That’s after they shot ‘em,” said another man in the Hilo council meeting room who had earlier spoke against measures restricting the raising of chickens.
Some people supported the bill as a necessary component of the natural farming movement, which seeks to reduce farmers’ reliance on imported products.
Council members agreed that the bill needed to be amended so the chickens could be raised on parcels of land that meet a minimum square foot requirement, but they were unable to pass any amendments before adjourning at noon for their lunch break.
The current language allows the raising of hens, provided that it meets Department of Health requirements; that the hens not be allowed to roam free, that the enclosures meet all applicable zoning and building code requirements for structures, and that it conform with existing homeowner association rules and regulations.
The council’s Planning Committee also supported by a 7-0 vote a resolution delaying any council action on “up-zoning” parcels in the Pahoa Regional Town Center until the Pahoa Regional Town Center Plan is adopted by ordinance or by June 30 of next year, whichever occurs first. The resolution advances to the full council with a positive recommendation.
In other business, the counci’s Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability moved one step closer to requesting Legislative Auditor Colleen Schrandt to conduct a performance audit into the Department of Water Supply’s procedures for awarding water meters for the Ocean View standpipe station.
Ten standpipe meters were issued on a first-come, first-serve basis for the new $6.4 million water system station that is at least 12 miles closer to the dry Ka‘u subdivision than the Na‘alehu water standpipe station. But despite the closer location, Ocean View residents have told Councilwoman Brittany Smart that they haven’t seen any significant drop in the price of water delivery.
Further, some residents have reason to believe one company is monopolizing the standpipe meters, keeping the price of hauling water higher than it should be.
The Department of Water Supply said Monday it planned to replace the current system of allocating standpipe meters with a lottery system, and that it would take public comment at the monthly Water Board hearing next Monday in Hilo.
Council members voted 6-1 to move the resolution to the full council with a positive recommendation. Councilman Dennis Onishi provided the lone dissenting vote, while council members Brittany Smart and Dominic Yagong were absent.
Email Peter Sur at firstname.lastname@example.org.