(BIVN) – As the Hawaiʻi County Council moves forward with a resolution urging the Governor to issue an emergency proclamation due to the hazardous conditions at the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel on Banyan Drive, state officials say such a proclamation is already in the works.
Both the State and the County are “in the process of declaring an emergency proclamation,” said Dawn Chang, the chair of the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources during Wednesday’s council committee meeting. Chang said the proclamation “will suspend certain state laws, as allowed by federal law, and the mayor’s emergency proclamation will suspend certain County laws.”
“These laws that are being suspended will be utilized only to the extent necessary to quickly build a perimeter fence to secure the property against further trespassing,” Chang said, “and to demolish the building.”
Chang said the DLNR “had requested $14 million from the legislature to demolish Uncle Billy’s building. Based upon the estimates we had received this year, we received legislative authorization of $8 million geobond reimbursable. The $8 million is only enough to partially demolish the building to make it uninhabitable.”
“Depending on the proposed use, we may need additional legislative appropriation to remove the remaining debris and subsurface utilities and foundation,” Chang said. “Our engineering division is working on preparing the necessary scope of work for the contractor to demolish the building. With the emergency proclamation, we anticipate the contractor will take four to six months from the start to finish to abate any hazardous materials,” she added.
Chang said DLNR DOCARE officers will continue to monitor the property, “however, due to the current unsafe conditions, DOCARE and First Responders are not being permitted to even enter the building.”
Without the emergency proclamation, Chang said, “we probably would not be able to remove Uncle Billy for another two years, just with the contracting and the procurement process, so this should help relieve some of the tension and provide the Hawaiʻi island, and Hilo community in particular, some more expeditious relief.”
“I have thought through a lot of these things,” said Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, who introduced the Uncle Billy’s resolution, “as far as what does emergency powers do? As far as truncating the process. What do we do with individuals who are unhoused in that area? What do we do with our construction debris? These are all conversations I’ve been having on my own.”
The council committee voted to forward the resolution to the full council with a positive recommendation.
From the language of the resolution:
A RESOLUTION URGING GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN, M.D., TO ISSUE AN EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION TO PROVIDE RELIEF FOR DAMAGES, LOSSES, AND SUFFERING AND TO PROTECT THE HEALTH, SAFETY, AND WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE AFFECTED BY THE HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS AT THE PROPERTY FORMERLY KNOWN AS UNCLE BILLY’S HILO BAY HOTEL.
WHEREAS, the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel, comprised of approximately 1.83 acres, is located on State of Hawaiʻi land under the jurisdiction of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), situated at Waiakea, South Hilo, Hawaiʻi, identified by Tax Map Keys: (3) 2-1-005: 033, 034, 035, and 045; and
WHEREAS, in June 2017, then Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) Chair, Suzanne Case, in an official media release regarding the closure of the property noted, “the Board has kept a close eye on this property over two years and prepared a report on its condition. Recognizing this building was at the end of its useful life and out of an abundance of caution, we are taking these steps now to close this chapter and prepare for a new phase of revitalization of Banyan Drive”; and
WHEREAS, matters related to properties located at the Banyan Drive Peninsula, under the jurisdiction of DLNR, have appeared on the agenda of the BLNR approximately 27 times from January 2018 to May 2023; and
WHEREAS, for the past six years, Hawaiʻi legislators representing the area have attempted to collaborate with DLNR and BLNR to address concerns regarding the deplorable conditions of the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel and other State-owned properties located within the Banyan Drive Peninsula; and
WHEREAS, the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel has experienced numerous fires, squatters, illegal activity, and security issues that have disrupted the surrounding community and diverted precious resources since hotel services ceased in June 2017; and
WHEREAS, according to data supplied by the Hawaii Police Department, attached hereto as Exhibit A, officers responded to 6,479 calls for service/incidents in the area commonly known as Banyan Drive Peninsula from September 2018 to April 2023, and based on a two officer response, the estimated cost for responding to these calls ranges from $319,000 to $459,000, depending on the officers’ rank; and
WHEREAS, according to data supplied by the Hawaii Fire Department, attached hereto as Exhibit B, fire personnel responded to 946 calls for service/incidents in the Banyan Drive Peninsula area from May 2018 to May 2023, and based on a conservative estimate, the cost for responding to these calls is approximately $122,000; and
WHEREAS, a significant number of these calls for service/incidents involved activities occurring on or near the premises of the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel and its adjacent parking lot, which have adversely affected the public safety and welfare of the surrounding properties and community; and
WHEREAS, the hazardous conditions at the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel pose a serious and imminent threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the people of Hawaii County and require immediate action to mitigate the risks; and
WHEREAS, Section 127A-14(a), Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes (HRS), states that the governor may declare the existence of a state of emergency in the State by proclamation Of the governor finds that an emergency or disaster has occurred or that there is imminent danger or threat of an emergency or disaster in any portion of the State; and
WHEREAS, Section 127A- 13(a)(3), HRS, grants the governor, in an emergency period, the power to suspend any law that impedes or tends to impede or be detrimental to the expeditious and efficient execution of, or to conflict with, emergency functions; and
WHEREAS, the County of Hawaiʻi Banyan Drive Hawaiʻi Redevelopment Agency was established to develop a comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of Banyan Drive Peninsula and to facilitate public-private partnerships for implementation of the plan; and
WHEREAS, the redevelopment of Banyan Drive Peninsula is vital for the economic recovery and resilience of Hawaiʻi County, and an emergency proclamation would allow for the removal of blighted properties that create hazardous conditions and pose a risk to the community, such as the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF HAWAIʻI that it hereby urges Governor Josh Green, M.D., to issue an emergency proclamation pursuant to Chapter 127A, HRS, to provide relief for damages, losses, and suffering and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people affected by the ongoing hazardous conditions at the property identified by Tax Map Keys: (3) 2-1-005: 033, 034, 035, and 045, formerly known as Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVE that the County Clerk shall transmit a copy of this resolution to the Honorable Governor Josh Green, M.D.; the Honorable Senator Lorraine R. Inouye; the Honorable Representative Mark M. Nakashima; the Honorable Representative Richard H. K. Onishi; the Honorable Representative Chris Todd; Chairperson Dawn N. S. Chang, Department of Land and Natural Resources; Deputy Director Laura Hokunani Edmunds Kaʻakua, Department of Land and Natural Resources; the Honorable Mayor Mitchell D. Roth; Chief of Police Benjamin Moszkowicz; Fire Chief Kazuo Todd; Banyan Drive Hawaiʻi Redevelopment Agency; and Banyan Drive Business Association.