HILO, Hawaii – On Tuesday, the Hawaii County Council received the 2016 annual report of the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Commission, or PONC, detailing the priorities for future land purchases to benefit county residents.
Mayor Harry Kim transmitted the detailed summary of the “purchasing history and status of the lands purchased with the fund, an accounting report, a statement on management and stewardship of the lands” to the council, which voted to accept the updated report in Finance Committee.
Voters supported the creation of the land fund by county ordinance in 2006. Every year, two percent of the county’s real property tax collections are deposited into the open space fund.
Mayor Kim says that amount is too high.
“When this proposal came out, I was opposed,” said Kim in a recent interview.
Kim wanted the public to consider half that amount, a 1% set-aside, and says he is “gonna push for that again.” His approach is likely to be reflected in the upcoming budget proposal, he said.
It would not be the first time the county reconsidered the 2% land fund. In 2009, at the request of previous Mayor Billy Kenoi, the council voted to suspend deposits into the fund for two years. Land fund supporters fought back, arguing that the down economy was a great time to buy.
This year’s report places a conservation easement proposed for the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens in South Kona at the top of the priority list.