KEALAKEHE, Hawaii – A resolution to negotiate for the purchase of the well known Banyan Tree Park location in Hawi for public open space was introduced by North Kohala councilwoman Margaret Wille on Tuesday.
The residents of North Kohala voiced their support during the Council Committee on Finance meeting held in Kona, which was simulcast around the island by videoconference. Many testifiers spoke from the remote site in Kapa’au. They explained how the area is an important gathering area for the community and the location of a popular, weekly farmers market.
The one acre parcel was listed on the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources priority list for 2013.
David Lukas and Shelly White, the owners of the property, were in Kona to discuss the future of the treasured one acre parcel.
A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE DIRECTOR OF FINANCE TO ENTER INTO NEGOTIATIONS FOR THE ACQUISITION OF TAX MAP KEY (3) 5- 5- 015: 042, KNOWN AS THE BANYAN TREES PARK AREA IN NORTH KOHALA, PURSUANT TO CHAPTER 2, ARTICLE 42 OF THE HAWAII COUNTY CODE 1983 ( 2005 EDITION, AS AMENDED).
WHEREAS, Chapter 2, Article 42 of the Hawai`i County Code established the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund; and
WHEREAS, Section 2- 215 of the Hawai`i County Code established the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Commission (” the Commission”); and
WHEREAS, Section 2- 217 of the Hawai` i County Code provides, in pertinent part, that the Commission’ s first duty and responsibility is, ” To develop and submit to the mayor, an initial island-wide prioritized list of qualifying lands worthy of preservation…Priorities shall be listed on an island-wide rather than district basis.”; and
WHEREAS, on December 27, 2013, the Commission submitted its 2013 Annual Report to the Mayor citing the purchase of the Banyan Trees Park Area in North Kohala as a key priority; and
WHEREAS, Communication No. 704 from the Mayor, dated February 20, 2014, recommends that the Council accept the prioritized list as presented by the Commission; and
WHEREAS, the Banyan Trees Park Area is currently available for purchase, and the current owners would prefer to sell to the County, honoring the community’ s desire to preserve this area as a park and village green area; and
WHEREAS, the level of urgency for purchasing this property is high, because the current owners must sell immediately due to financial constraints, or begin development of the property in July 2014; and
WHEREAS, this property has been used informally for over 50 years as a park, hosting softball games and numerous community events, including the well- attended Kohala Fair (2,500 – 4,000 attendees), the very successful Hawi Farmer’ s Market, concerts, and popular classes such as hula, tai chi, etc.; and
WHEREAS, preserving this property will maintain the ocean view from the Hawi Farmer’ s Market and protect the landscape of the neighboring banyan trees that meet the County’ s criteria for exceptional trees ( a tree or grove of trees with historic or cultural value, or which by reason of its age, rarity, location, size, aesthetic quality, or endemic status has been designated by the Council as worthy of preservation); and
WHEREAS, local community groups and merchants are committed to assisting with managing the area through a Friends of the Park agreement with the County; and
WHEREAS, preserving this property ensures recreational opportunities for both residents of Hawai` i and tourists; and
WHEREAS, the property to be acquired is 0.91 acres and covered by Tax Map Key 3) 5- 5- 015: 042, as shown in the attached ” Exhibit A”; now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF HAWAII that the Director of Finance is hereby authorized to enter into negotiations for the acquisition of the Banyan Trees Park Area property in North Kohala, Tax Map Key ( 3) 5- 5- 015: 042, pursuant to the terms of this resolution.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Director of Finance is authorized to initiate any funding mechanisms required for the acquisition of the Banyan Trees Park Area property in accordance with Chapter 2, Article 42 of the Hawai` i County Code, relating to the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Hawai` i County Council welcomes individuals who are willing to share their expertise and engage with others in an open process to form a new nonprofit or to create a Friends of the Park agreement solely dedicated to the management of the Banyan Trees Park Area property.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the County Clerk shall forward a copy of this resolution to the Honorable Mayor William P. Kenoi, the Director of Finance, the Director of Parks and Recreation, and the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Commission.