Big Island

Regulations For Multiple Houses on Agricultural-Zoned Land (Big Island)

One of the questions I’m most frequently asked when I show vacant land or homes on acreage in North Kohala is, “How easy is it to get permits to build multiple homes on agricultural zoned land?” They may have heard about “additional farm dwellings” or even be looking at a property where more than one structure exists. Some prospective buyers are looking for property suitable for a family compound, or a collective living situation.

In addition to this main home, a 6.8-acre Ag property near Hawi (MLS# 244094) already has a partially-built, permitted “additional farm dwelling”

County Code Governs Permitted Uses For Each Zoning Classification

The first place to start in understanding the rules for what can and can’t be built on land zoned “agricultural” in Hawaii County would be to consult Chapter 25 of the county code regarding zoning. This document can be found on the County website: Hawaii County Code (or email me for a copy of the relevant section). 

For each zoning classification, the code specifies uses that are allowed as well as uses that are allowed with special permits. In most zoning categories, only one single family home is allowed. On Ag-zoned land additional farm dwellings may be permitted upon approval of an agreement submitted to the Planning Department with a farm plan or other evidence of the applicant’s ongoing agricultural use.

How many homes or additional farm dwellings would be allowed on, say, a 20-acre parcel? The Growth Management subcommittee of our North Kohala Community Development Plan (CDP) Action Committee recently met with a planning department representative to ask exactly that question.

Specific Current Guidelines For Additional Farm Dwelling Agreements

Assuming the applicant does have bona fide agricultural activity, the answer is that the first additional farm dwelling is allowed without conditions. The second farm dwelling would require proof that the resident worked at least 8 hours per week on the property; a third farm dwelling would require proof of 40 hours of farm work per week per farm dwelling.

Approval from the planning department is only the first step. All other building code and permit requirements for a residence must still be met.

One other caveat if you are thinking you’d like to have a “retreat” or “bed-and-breakfast” on your farm property; the North Kohala CDP directs the planning department to not approve any additional applications for special permits to allow overnight accommodations on land zoned agricultural in our district. Other districts might view these applications differently, so be sure to check with a Hawaii Life real estate agent familiar with the local environment in your neighborhood of interest.

Comments (5) Show CommentsHide Comments (Remember)

Cool. Add your comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private, this form is secure and we never spam you.

Peter Roa

August 28, 2017

I’m interested in obtaining property off the grid. The property will need commercial zoning or possibly apply for zoning changes. Six or seven temporary structures will be needed for aquaculture studies. My first choice is M L S # 604391. Can you assist me with the acquisition of the property and the application for zoning changes?

Beth Thoma Robinson

August 28, 2017

Hi Peter, I will email you rather than post answers on this site!
Beth Thoma Robinson R(B)

Tracy Stice

November 7, 2017

Beth, thank you for writing this. As a Maui agent it is very informative and interesting that the County zoning codes are so different. Please write an update on the administrative rule you and I discussed about Hawaii County no longer allowing agricultural ” condos ” using HRS 514 B. If you can source out the actual rule and share it, I am sure a lot of land owners and agents would greatly appreciate it.

Lester Maeda

September 14, 2020

May I request additional information specific to the building code in Kamuela on a Ag 1 zoned property. I would appreciate if you would provide me with the relevant section in the Hawaii County Code.

Mahalo in advance.

Beth Robinson

September 14, 2020

Hi Les,Thanks for reading my blog post.
Here is the link to Check with County for information regarding building in Ag zoning:
Depending on the lot, there might also be CC&Rs on top of those requirements.AlohaBeth

More Articles from Hawaii Life