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Hawaii County moves toward greater freedom for beekeepers

The Leeward Planning Commission voted favorably on a bill that would make it easier for beekeepers to expand their businesses

Hawaii Island beekeepers have been clamoring for some time for changes to the county’s zoning regulations that would help them expand what is already a $10 million industry on Hawaii Island alone.

And yesterday, the county’s Leeward Planning Commission agreed with their calls by voting to recommend Bill 144 to the Hawaii County Council.

The bill would amend the definitions of “livestock,” “livestock production” and “animal” to promote beekeeping; describe generally accepted management practices for beekeeping; and reduce setbacks for apiaries and make them a permitted use in all zoning districts.

Grassroot policy researcher Jonathan Helton testified that the bill was “a prime example of how relaxing overbroad regulations could assist Hawaii’s entrepreneurs.”

Helton noted that Hawaii Island beekeepers already supply 30% to 35% of all queen bees on the mainland and 75% of those in Canada.

“With many U.S. honeybee colonies in a precarious position, Hawaii’s beekeepers could play a major role in helping feed the United States and the world,” he said.

Helton said the measure also represents a major opportunity for the Council to boost a growing industry that could truly help diversify the island’s economy.

“The increased biodiversity that more bees would bring could improve pollination to support Hawaii’s local flora and fauna as well,” he said.

Also on Hawaii Island …

The Hawaii County Council passed on final reading Bill 152, which aims to allow the Hawaii County Department of Public Works to issue preapproved model plans for multifamily housing — as it already does for single-family dwellings.

Helton of Grassroot testified that if enacted, the bill “would be a positive step toward streamlining the permitting process for residential construction on Hawaii Island.”

By allowing for preapproved model plans for multifamily dwellings, he said, “it would reduce the need for plan reviews of projects that use these pre-vetted designs. This could significantly cut down on permitting delays and costs for homebuilders, speeding up the delivery of much-needed housing for future owners and renters.”

He added that “preapproved plans would be especially helpful to nonprofit and small-scale homebuilders, who often have limited capital to finance projects while waiting on plan approvals.”

Other Hawaii County bills Grassroot testified on this week were Bill 104, which aims to create a new real property tax class for long-term rental properties that do not currently fall into the “affordable rental housing” class; Bill 173, which seeks to lower the property tax assessment cap for homeowners and affordable rentals from 3% to 2.5%; and Bill 174, which the homeowner exemption for long-term rental owners.

And on Maui …

The Grassroot Institute testified this past week on the following bills considered by the Maui County Council:

>> Bill 71: “Allow more flexibility for sizes of second dwellings on farm lots”

>> Bill 85: “Modify ‘circuit breaker’ credit to keep up with rising home values”

>> Bill 87: “Extend duration of emergency temporary housing structures”

>> Bill 96: “Exempt shipping containers from building permit requirement”

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