Hilo, Hawaii – March 7, 2010
Video by David Corrigan
The Windward Planning Commission deferred making a decision on a package of zoning code for Downtown Hilo on Friday, allowing more time for businesses and residents to comment on the plans.
The proposed changes include reducing the existing 120-foot height limit in Hilo (the new height limits would be 60 feet for makai areas below Kino’ole Street, and 80 feet for areas set further back from Hilo Bay), increasing the allowable low-rise development density (for an additional 15 units per acre), and revising the lists of permitted uses in the Downtown district (would eliminate car washes, automobile repair shops and service stations from the list of permitted uses, but would add churches, community gardens and hostels to the list of approved uses.)
Other changes include creating a “commercial core” – which includes the areas makai of Kino’ole Street from Ponahawai Street to the Wailuku River – where new buildings would generally be built to the lot lines so the structures are bordered by a sidewalk, and overhead canopies would be required to shelter pedestrians from the rain. Additional lighting would also be required under the canopies and along storefronts in the commercial core to improve visibility and pedestrian security.
The county says the proposed changes are “an effort to preserve the old town ambiance of Downtown Hilo with its views of Hilo Bay, while positioning the area for redevelopment that respects and complements Hilo’s historic roots. The plan will help preserve the feel of the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhood on the island, while encouraging property owners to incorporate landscaping, lighting and other improvements into their projects to make downtown more safe and attractive.”
“These changes have been carefully thought out by people who live, work and visit downtown, and they will serve as a guide to make this special area even more inviting and unique,” said County of Hawaii Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd in a county media release. “We want to encourage investment in Downtown Hilo while preserving the special character of the area, and this plan accomplishes that.”
During the meeting on Friday, Hilo resident Fred Koehnen, witness to decades of downtown evolution, delivers an eloquent warning to the commission about the unintended consequences of further regulation. His testimony is shown in the first video.
The second video focuses on Jeff Melrose of the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association, who explains some of the thinking behind the proposed zoning changes.
The proposed zoning changes are the result of Envision Downtown Hilo 2025’s effort to inact a 5 year action plan, which must be approved by the Windward Planning Commission and later, the County Council.