Bill to ban big-box stores is narrowed
The Hawaii County Council votes to limit the proposal to just Hawaiian Homes lands
HILO » The Hawaii County Council postponed a vote on a controversial ban on so-called "superstores" on the Big Island after hearing public testimony Wednesday evening.
Instead, the council voted 5-4 last night to approve an amendment limiting the ban to land owned by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
The council will now have to consider the amended bill at a later hearing, and likely will send it back to the County Planning Commission. Whether or not the council had legal jurisdiction over the department's land is a gray area, County Planning Director Chris Yuen said.
A superstore was defined as a business exceeding 90,000 square feet, stocking more than 25,000 different items and dedicating more than 20,000 square feet to groceries.
There are big-box retailers already on the island.
The measure stemmed from Wal-Mart's plans to expand its Hilo store, which opened in 1993 on 20 acres of land leased from the department.
The new store would sit on an adjacent 40-acre parcel, also owned by the department.
County Councilman Angel Pilago of Kona offered the amendment after more than two hours of public testimony.
"My real issue is the diminishing of native entitlements," Pilago said. "If all we're doing is talking about square feet, I feel that is highly insensitive."
There were no department representatives at the hearing.
Most of the testimony came from people opposing the measure.
Joe Richardson, an American Airlines pilot who moved to the Big Island two years ago from Texas, said superstores are needed to reduce prices.
"This isn't a Third World country and we should be allowed to have our choices," he said. "I just think it's a proposal from the Dark Ages."
Kale Gumapac backed a ban.
Gumapac said he owned a Christmas tree business for 17 years, but had to close it after the Wal-Mart in Hilo opened.
"Keep Hilo Hilo. If people don't like it, then move," Gumapac said.
Last May, Kauai County instituted a ban on big-box stores.
The Kauai County Council passed the ban in an unanimous vote out of concern for local businesses that said they couldn't compete against big-box national retailers.
The Kauai law prohibits retail and wholesale establishments larger than 75,000 square feet. Kauai kept its existing Costco, Wal-Mart and Kmart stores, but no new retail stores that big can be built under the law.