(BIVN) – As another session of the Hawaiʻi State Legislature gets underway, lawmakers are again looking to improve the Banyan Drive area of Hilo.
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Water and Land held a hearing on HB 1788, which would establish “the Waiakea peninsula redevelopment district and planning committee for the redevelopment of public lands on the Waiakea peninsula.” The bill also establishes the Waiakea Peninsula Redevelopment District revolving fund, and makes an appropriation.
During the virtual hearing, state officials voiced their concerns about the proposal.
Kevin Moore (DLNR Land Division): “The department stands on its written testimony in opposition on this measure,” said Kevin Moore of the DLNR Land Division. “The department does have an ongoing request for qualifications, requests for proposals, for two properties on Banyan Drive. That’s the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel, and the former Country Club. We would ask that we’d be given time for that RFQ, RFP process to play out.”
Moore said the bill would also “take away critical revenues that the department needs to fund its operations.”
Hawaii County, however, spoke in support of the bill.
“For as as long as I can remember – I’m born and raised here Big Island – Waiakea Peninsula needed a tremendous amount of attention,” testified Hawaiʻi County Planning Director Zendo Kern. “I feel like this bill is in the right direction. It might need some adjustments here and there, but it is moving in the right direction.”
Kern noted that there have been some decisions that have “marginalized the ability” of the current hotel properties due to various government requirements. “The remaining parcels that are left are quite challenged and so I would be supportive of anything we can do to help this area,” Kern said.
Following the public testimony, the house committee voted to advance the measure.
“It’s a challenging bill,” said committee chair Rep. David Tarnas from Hawaiʻi island. “But, I think we do need to continue the discussion on it. The area representatives really would like to move forward and figure out some answers to these questions and also a way to make it fair to the state.”