(BIVN) – Money for a joint state-county planning effort to revitalize the Banyan Drive resort area appears to be drying up.
During a May 31st meeting of the Banyan Drive Hawaii Redevelopment Agency in Hilo, the county Planning Department informed agency board members that funding for the next fiscal year “did not make it through” in the revised budget draft. The County Council is tasked with approving the budget proposal in the coming weeks.
The funds would have gone to support staff, supplies, and a necessary environmental assessment for the Banyan Drive master plan that was created by the agency last year.
In April, the County planning director Michael Yee initially said his department planned to continue funding the work of the agency to the tune of $1.5 million.
Things changed with the budget revision, however, as arbitrated raises for multiple government employee bargaining units and a reduction in the county’s share of the transient accommodations tax changed the fiscal landscape. The new spending plan also calls for raises in county property tax rates.
Mayor Harry Kim, who inherited the Kenoi administration’s BDHRA, seemed lukewarm to the whole process from the beginning.
Agency chair Brian DeLima appeared to take the planned defunding in stride, keeping an eye on the long game.
“We’re really at the infancy of the planning process,” DeLima said. “We adopted a plan that was proposed by the previous administration. I think it takes time for the new administration to review and refine what was proposed and planned. the bottom line is that nothing is going to happen overnight and that it takes significant investment of time and energy and resources in order to spend millions and millions of dollars to replace structures that have outlived their useful life.”
Hope for help at the state level was dashed during this year’s legislative session, too. Multiple proposed bills to bolster the state’s ability to redeveloping the area – including Banyan Drive – fell by the wayside.
State House Representative Richard Onishi attended Wednesday BDHRA meeting. Outside the meeting room, Onishi said, during the whole session, “the county never really came to me and said, ‘hey, you know what? We really think our plan is the best plan, so therefor we need financial support or we need legislative support to move forward.’ That sort of gave us at the legislature a cue that the legislature needs to do something.”
Onishi said, “that’s why you had so many bills introduced that would have affected Banyan Drive.”
Sen. Kai Kahele expressed similar views at the start of the session. Kahele took an active role at the Board of Land and Natural Resources, testifying on certain agenda items dealing with the resort area.
Meanwhile, the land board is planning on taking a vote on a DLNR recommendation to authorize the sale of a three-year lease at public auction covering the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay buildings, according to state submittals for a June 9 meeting on Oahu. The properties are now leased in a month-to-month revocable permit to Savio HBH Development Company for the Pagoda Hilo Bay Hotel.
DLNR also wants to “authorize staff to prepare and publish a Request for Interest in a long-term disposition of the subject property for hotel-resort uses to gauge whether there is interest among prospective developers in obtaining a long-term lease of the property for hotel-resort purposes that would include an obligation to secure the permitting and approvals needed to demolish the existing structures, complete the demolition, and construct a new hotel on the site.”