(BIVN) – The Windward Planning Commission was unable to agree on a permit request to allow a company to draw water from a fresh artesian well in Hilo and bottle it for sale, postponing their decision on Thursday.
The application from Piʻilani Partners, LLC involves three separate matters, all involving the property at 525 Piʻilani Street (TMK: (3) 2-2-033:011), located between the Hilo Civic Auditorium and the Wailoa River State Park. They are:
- A request to revoke Special Management Area (SMA) Use Permit No. 334, which was granted in 1992 to allow the construction of a warehouse, fish processing plant, accessory office use, parking and related improvements on a 2.5712-acre parcel within the Special Management Area.
- A request for a 5-year time extension to comply with Condition C (Secure Final Plan Approval) and Condition D (Complete Construction) of Change of Zone Ordinance No. 92 122, which reclassified approximately 2.5712 acres from Resort-Hotel-Safety -7,500 square feet (V-S-7.5) district to the Limited Industrial-20,000 square feet (ML-20) zoning district in 1992.
- An application for a Special Management Area Use Permit to develop a potable water well and bottling facility with related improvements on a 2.5712-acre parcel within the Special Management Area.
The original SMA Permit applicant, Suisan Company, planned to develop the facility in conjunction with a planned fish auction site near the mouth of the Wailoa River. Due to health and other environmental requirements, that plan was terminated, county planners say. “This along with the sluggish economy in the 1990’s caused Suisan to shift focus to improve its current location,” a Planning Department slide-presentation stated. “As such, Suisan has decided to abandon the fish processing plant concept and part with the property.”
That’s where Piʻilani Partners comes in. “In the early 1990’s, the state conducted a drilling project in the area and found a fresh artesian water source at a depth of approximately 1,000 feet,” the planning department stated. “The applicant hopes to harvest this potential resource at an initial draw of 100,000 [Gallons Per Day] and based on market demand, increase to 200,000 GPD. The bottled beverages would be produced, stored on-site, and distributed to various local and non-local markets.”
The water would come from the Onomea Aquifer, which is actually part of the Mauna Kea sector and actually sits below the Mauna Loa aquifer sector. Piʻilani Partners would have to penetrate through the Mauna Loa water source in order to extract the preferred Mauna Kea waters below it, planning consultant Sidney Fuke told the commission.
Part of the conversation involved the potential for the county to collect royalty payments on the commercial use of the water resource. However, Fuke and attorney Pam Bunn, speaking on behalf of Piʻilani Partners, said there is no law granting the County the authority to collect such a royalty. Commissioner Gilbert Aguinaldo said he would like to see the company make a gesture to give back, perhaps in the form of a donation to a Hawaiian non-profit, to compensate for the use of the water resource.
The water bottling proposal did not sit well with at least two public testifiers, Cory Harden and Thomas Kamaki Rathburn, who spoke out against the permit during the commission meeting in Hilo Thursday.
The Planning Department voted to approve the prior SMA Use Permit revocation. But when it came to the new SMA Use Permit, the one that would permit the bottling facility, the planning commission could not reach an agreement.
Commissioner John Replogle made a lengthy motion to deny the permit, laying out numerous reasons in support of his position. His motion was supported, 3 votes to 2. Commissioners Thomas Raffipiy and Aguinaldo voted in favor of Replogle’s motion.
The 3 votes, however, were not enough to pass Replogle’s motion (4 votes are required, officials said). Without an agreement, the application was at risk of being denied by default. The commission decided to come back to the table to reconsider the application with new conditions at a later date.