Pictured above: Ka`u Mahi Ag Lots, Pahala, HI
Here’s one to ponder! Hawai`i Revised Statutes, the laws that govern our State, do not allow residential dwellings on agricultural land unless the dwelling is related to an agricultural activity (i.e., a farm dwelling). In other words, dwellings on agricultural lands are supposed to be used in conjunction with the operation of a farm. The statute imposes a $5,000 fine for each violation. If you fail to remove the violation within 6 months, an additional $5,000 fine can be levied.
State vs. County
At the same time, Chapter 25 (25-5-70b) of our County Code allows for the construction of one single-family dwelling on each building site in the Agricultural District. This is especially interesting because all Puna Subdivisions, many building lots in Hilo (Sunrise Estates for example) and almost all Hamakua lots are zoned Agricultural. Because the County of Hawai`i issues building permits, we generally regard their authority as controlling in this matter. Hence, we follow the County Code.
The same chapter of the County Code dictates that second and additional dwellings are not allowed on Agricultural land unless they are farm related. In other words, Ohana dwellings are not allowed on Agricultural land unless their use is farm related. Basic farm dwelling requirements are contained in the County Code. It may still be possible to build a guesthouse/maid’s quarters or a detached master bedroom without a full kitchen, but a second dwelling with a kitchen is a definite no-no without an approved farm plan.
In the Ohana
Keep in mind that Ohana dwellings have not always been excluded from Ag land in the County of Hawai`i. Because each County sets and administers Ohana permits, it was common to find Ohana dwellings on Ag lands until about 15 years ago. There are many legal Ohana homes on Ag land. At times, an Ohana permit was issued but never used. The current validity of the permit depends on the date of issue. If the validity of an Ohana permit is important to your purchase, the County Planning Department should be contacted.
Explaining these, along with other island peculiarities like Coqui frogs, catchment tanks, lava zones, lava tubes, fee simple, permitting, insurance, vog, etc, etc, takes a good deal of finesse, patience, historical knowledge, and experience! It’s all in a day’s work for REALTORS® on the world’s most beautiful island!