(BIVN) – A request to extend the Limited Industrial zoning on a Hilo property tied to a proposed potable water well and bottling facility remains in limbo, after the Hawaiʻi County Council on Thursday postponed a vote on Bill 16.
Piʻilani Partners, LLC hopes to develop the water bottling facility along Manono Street between the Hilo Civic Auditorium and Wailoa River State Park. Their plan included tapping an drawing water from an artesian source within the Mauna Kea aquifer sector.
The project drew opposition from environmentalists and water protectors, and on March 7, the Windward Planning Commission voted to deny the company’s Special Management Area Use Permit request.
However, the Windward Planning Commission did forward a favorable recommendation to the council for a Piʻilani Partner request to extend the Limited Industrial zoning on the property.
The parcel is owned by Matsuno Enterprises Limited, and was originally reclassified from Resort-Hotel to Limited Industrial under Ordinance 92-122 in order to allow the Suisan Company to develop a fish processing plant in conjunction with an auction site near the mouth of the Wailoa River. The fish processing project never materialized, which meant the conditions for the zone reclassification were not met.
Piʻilani Partners has an option to buy the land if it can obtain all the necessary permits for its water bottling facility. The company needs the Limited Industrial land classification to stay in place.
On February 19, the Hawaiʻi County Council Committee on Planning voted to give Bill 16 a positive recommendation. Since that time, the Planning Commission denied the separate SMA use permit.
“We don’t know at this time what Piʻilani Partners’ intentions are, as far as going forward,” said Steven Ueda, president of Matsuno Enterprises, “but we feel it is highly likely that they will walk away from the transaction. So our request is to extend the industrial zoning as done in Bill 16 and what this will allow us is time to explore suitable projects for the property. That may include developing the property ourselves, developing with a partner, or finding another capable developer to purchase the property.”
Cory Harden recalled that the planning consultant for the project said that “if Bill 16 fails, the land would be in limbo, and the owner couldn’t go back or forwards. But couldn’t the owner apply for rezoning?”
“We all know that there’s something going on behind the scenes,” testified Claudia Rohr. “This amendment is not what it purports to be. The council is being duped into facilitating a commercial real estate transaction.”
“I respectfully request that you do not change the zoning to accommodate this ill-conceived and wasteful industrial proposal that would take a public trust resource for private gain and send millions of plastic bottles that plague our oceans and kill our birds, whales, and turtles,” testified Deborah Ward. “This is the 21st century and Hawaiʻi should be at the forefront of protecting our vulnerable and precious resources including the waters of Kāne, our people, our oceans. At a time when there’s a proposal to desalinate water for Kona residents, why on earth would we give away our bountiful water for a pittance of taxes?”
The council postponed a vote on the bill and will wait to see if Piʻilani Partners appeals the Windward Planning Commission’s decision to deny the SMA use permit.