Penninsula planners: Banyan Drive project options discussed

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Hawaii County planners continue to tweak conceptual plans for the proposed Banyan Drive redevelopment project.

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Hawaii County planners continue to tweak conceptual plans for the proposed Banyan Drive redevelopment project.

Two different versions of the draft plan were presented to the Banyan Drive Redevelopment Agency during a Wednesday meeting attended by about 20 community members. No votes were taken to approve either plan.

Both plans modify the original concept, which would allow for a new hotel to be built on the peninsula as well as a community cultural center.

The plans differ from one another primarily in that one shows open park space on the portion of the peninsula currently occupied by the small hotels and residential buildings north of Reeds Bay, and one includes a new resort and mixed-use space in that location.

The agency was formed earlier this year after the Banyan Drive peninsula was declared “blighted” under Hawaii’s urban renewal law, and a redevelopment district was created.

The group last met in July. Its regular public meeting last month was canceled because of Hurricane Madeline.

County Planning Department director Duane Kanuha said the extra time had allowed planners more opportunities to discuss the project with local business owners and representatives from the tourism industry. Planners also met with organizers for the Blue Zones Project.

Kanuha said the department is working on a plan to create a memorandum of understanding between the county and the leaseholders of the Naniloa golf course property, the proposed site of the community cultural center.

Board vice-chair Mary Begier reminded the group that any future planning would need to take into account erosion and sea level rise.

“You have to think about those specifics when you’re dreaming the dream,” she said. “Even the Hilo Hawaiian and Naniloa will already be planning for it. It’s already a fact of life for their properties.”

Some attendees expressed concern about the emphasis on tourism in the redevelopment plans.

Banyan Drive resident Carl Oguss said that only a few areas on the peninsula could be considered truly blighted and that the group was “trying to force down the throats of this community a plan that is reckless and will put us into tremendous debt.”

He said the planners and agency should publish a cost-benefit analysis for the plans and that any financial investment would be better spent on improving medical and educational resources for residents.

Others, like Hilo Reeds Bay Hotel owner Donald Inouye, said the current proposal did not have enough focus on visitors and needed to be more pedestrian-friendly. Inouye suggested eliminating the cultural center from plans and keeping the golf course in place.

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The next meeting of the Banyan Drive Redevelopment Agency will be at 2 p.m. Oct. 26. A location has not yet been determined.

Email Ivy Ashe at iashe@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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