$100K in fines and count­ing

West Hawaii Today - - Hawaii News - BY JOHN BURNETT

HILO — County Coun­cil­man Aaron Chung has drafted a bill that would al­low a farm­ers mar­ket to be set up tem­po­rar­ily at Mooheau Park in down­town Hilo across from Hilo Farm­ers Mar­ket.

Chung, who rep­re­sents the down­town Hilo dis­trict, told the Tribune-Herald he hopes to fast-track the mea­sure through the coun­cil.

Keith De La Cruz, owner-man­ager of the pop­u­lar open-air mar­ket, is be­ing fined $4,000 a day by the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works Build­ing Divi­sion for al­leged non­com­pli­ance with county build­ing, zon­ing and fire codes.

“I want to make it clear, we’re not look­ing to re­place the farm­ers mar­ket,” Chung said. “The county shouldn’t be in the busi­ness of run­ning a farm­ers mar­ket and we’re not try­ing to get into the farm­ers mar­ket busi­ness. We just want Mr. De La Cruz to hurry up and com­ply with the code. We just want to pro­vide a vi­tal fea­ture to our down­town Hilo com­mu­nity while he’s do­ing what he needs to do.”

Barett Otani, Pub­lic Works spokesman, said the county started assess­ing the fines March 19 upon the re­turn re­ceipt of cer­ti­fied mail no­ti­fi­ca­tion to De La Cruz — $1,000 per day of con­tin­ued non­com­pli­ance for each of four tax-map-key land parcels the mar­ket oc­cu­pies. As of Thurs­day, fine as­sess­ments reached $100,000.

The mar­ket closed down for a day on March 25 to take down a tarp and some wiring the county said didn’t meet fire codes. The pre­vi­ous day, De La Cruz in­formed ven­dors they would have to buy their own 10-foot-by-10-foot pop-up tents to erect and re­move daily for their busi­nesses.

De­spite in­clement weather for much of the day, the mar­ket was a hub of ac­tiv­ity last Wed­nes­day. Mer­chants’ tents con­tin­ued to abut the side­walk along Mamo Street, in vi­o­la­tion of a code re­quir­ing 10-foot set­backs, and brushed against the wall of Reuben’s Mex­i­can Food, an­other code vi­o­la­tion.

“We’re mon­i­tor­ing com­pli­ance on a daily ba­sis,” said Roy Take­moto, an ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant to Mayor Harry Kim. “An in­spec­tor is there ev­ery day, tak­ing pic­tures. But we, to­gether with Coun­cil­man Aaron Chung, we’re try­ing to fig­ure out the fea­si­bil­ity of set­ting up tem­po­rar­ily — while Keith is get­ting his permits to­gether — at the Mooheau Park.

Chung said he was in­vited to a meet­ing sched­uled for this week on the topic, but hadn’t de­cided if he would at­tend. He added en­force­ment of county codes is up to the ad­min­is­tra­tion and he “can­not, in good con­science, try to sug­gest to the ad­min­is­tra­tion that they don’t fol­low the law.”

Take­moto em­pha­sized the county ad­min­is­tra­tion has been “try­ing to work with (De La Cruz) for one year.”

“Clos­ing the mar­ket was ab­so­lutely the last re­sort. Be­cause we couldn’t get his at­ten­tion, we had to take this ac­tion,” he said. Take­moto said De La Cruz’s ap­pli­ca­tion for a 180-day tem­po­rary per­mit “was sub­mit­ted but re­jected.”

“It didn’t meet the re­quire­ments,” he said. “I think he’s work­ing with his ar­chi­tect to get that re-sub­mit­tal pre­pared.”

De La Cruz said Thurs­day he and his ar­chi­tect are “pro­cess­ing our permits as best as we can right now.”

HOLLYN JOHN­SON/

Cus­tomers weave through the aisles of the Hilo Farm­ers Mar­ket on Wed­nes­day in down­town Hilo.

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