(BIVN) – As the 2020 state legislative session gets underway, one area in Hilo that lawmakers will be keeping an eye on is the Waiakea Peninsula, home to the Banyan Drive resorts.
The Banyan Drive hotels are situated on leased state lands. In recent years, the County and the state have been working with the private sector to improve the area and bolster Hilo’s tourism economy.
Mayor Harry Kim was one of the four county mayors to go before a joint State House Finance and Senate Ways and Means Committee last week in order to talk about County needs heading into the 2020 session.
Hilo’s State Senator Kai Kahele noted that the County is requesting that the legislature consider the “continued funding for the State portion of Kalanianaʻole Avenue Reconstruction”, between the harbor entrance and the Highway 19 / 11 junction.
“We do not hesitate in the identifying state highway responsibilities as our
priority also,” Mayor Kim said.
The County request also included this statement on “promoting economic development”:
Banyan Drive Redevelopment (HB 910 HD1 SD1, SB 914 SD2 HD1). Banyan Drive is a prime resort area that has the potential to become a greater economic driver. Since the primary landowner is the State, the State should lead the redevelopment with County participation and support. Government investment in infrastructure would provide the framework and motivation for private investment.
Sen. Kahele said that the redevelopment of Banyan Drive redevelopment is “something that we’ve been working on for quite some time, and haven’t been able to get it to the finish line. I think we’re close, but in regards to your statement of County participation and support, can you elaborate on that? Is there a possibility, based on your budget that you’ll be presenting to the council, that there may be a shared investment in Banyan Drive’s future with state funds and County?”
Mayor Kim said “all of Banyan Drive is the responsibility of county government,” referring to the road itself. “We spent quite a bit of money in regards to maintenance.”
Kim said the County is “suggesting the possibility of the revenues derived from the lease of the lands to those hotels and resorts be used for the maintenance of that area.”
Kahele asked Kim about the status on the Banyan Drive Redevelopment Agency “that was created via the previous administration, and the enabling legislation that this legislature provided.”
“That is still the mechanism in place?” Kahele asked. “Are we looking at replacing that or strengthening that?”
“It’s still in effect,” Kim answered. “They’re very active. We will maintain it because it’s an advisory type of a commission. Most of it is regards to the surrounding area. We’re still working on the master plan of that.”