HALEIWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - A popular outdoor Sunday event on Oahu's North Shore is in jeopardy after the state issued a notice to vacate to the operators and owners of the Haleiwa Farmers' Market.
The market has been an icon in the community since it started back in 2009. Recently, the issue of where the market operates has drawn some controversy.
The Department of Transportation says the 2.5 acres of land at the intersection of Kamehameha Highway and J.P. Leong Highway is technically a highway right of way, and is zoned for agricultural use, not for doing business.
According to the DOT, that puts the state at risk for possible lawsuits if something should happen at the market.
"I really want to stress that we've been working with these people, I mean we've really been working hard with them trying to figure everything out," DOT spokesperson Dan Meisenzahl said. "We haven't been charging them rent. Once again, we support the effort."
The owners said they're shocked and confused by the state's response and add that they felt they met all the conditions of an annual lease.
The roadway, once part of Kamehameha Highway, has been unused since the Joseph P. Leong Highway bypassing Haleiwa opened in the 1990s. "Even though it's been dead for 12 years, unless somebody changes that, that name of it, to this road, then that statute applies to that dead piece of dead end road," said Farmers' Market co-owner Annie Suite. "Go figure."
The DOT said the department discovered the legal problem when it was trying to come up with a more formal annual agreement. The state has been allowing the Farmers' Market to use the property, rent-free, on a month-to-month basis.
The abrupt shutdown will affect local North Shore farmers. "They have a lot of produce in the fields. One of the farmers sells a hundred dozen eggs out there every week, and we're very concerned about where this product will go this week," said Farmers' Market co-owner Pamela Boyar.
"It's a big thing on the North Shore," said Howard McGinnis of the Hawaiian Honeybee Co-op." It's a quality market that you don't just find everywhere, because its more than just a market."
But right now, it's a road.
"That kind of thing takes a lot of time to change," said Meisenzahl. "It's really an unfortunate situation, but our hands are tied."
"I worry, not so much for myself because I have other markets that I can survive on," McGinnis said. "But I worry about the farmers that are only at those markets, and to shut something down so abruptly, how long before it opens back up? Yet they still have bills to pay."
"We'll find a place to have them sell their produce if we have to open up another market somewhere else," said Suite. "If we have to do that, we have to do that." She said, however, that the longtime location had been perfect.
According to Meisenzahl, the HFM will be allowed to operate for the next three Sundays.
The DOT will honor April's agreement, but after that, the HFM will not be allowed to operate due to liability issues.