Banyan Drive panel backs state measures

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Meeting for the first time since November, the Banyan Drive Redevelopment Agency took stock of ongoing changes to the local political landscape.


Meeting for the first time since November, the Banyan Drive Redevelopment Agency took stock of ongoing changes to the local political landscape.

A new mayoral administration is working on updating and amending the Hilo General Plan, while at the state Legislature level a host of bills are moving through this session that could affect how future economic development plays out in town.

The agency, during its Wednesday meeting at the Aupuni Center, voted to support those measures, but has not yet specified how that would be done. Typically, support comes in the form of written testimony.

“The reality is, we want to continue economic activity for the Hilo community, and if it includes the Waiakea Peninsula … at least these bills provide a funding source, which we do not have from the county,” board chairman Brian De Lima said before the vote. “It’s not adverse to our conceptual plan adoption.”

The redevelopment agency was tasked last year with creating a plan to guide future work on Banyan Drive after the area was declared blighted under Hawaii’s urban renewal law. The plan was approved in November, but the all-volunteer board does not have any funding of its own to carry out the proposals.

The Hawaii County Planning Department intended to begin the process of creating an environmental assessment for work in the area, which would help expedite future projects. A proposed line item of $500,000 for the agency was not included in this year’s county budget.

“The thought was, before this state legislation was proposed, that we would facilitate the environmental (review) process to make it more attractive to investors,” De Lima said.

He asked state Department of Land and Natural Resources chairwoman Suzanne Case, who attended the Wednesday meeting, if the department had the funds to support an environmental assessment.

Case said no, but acknowledged the problem of future development.

“That is the rub, right?” she said. “This is going to cost some money, and where is that going to come from? You don’t get a redeveloped area without somebody making a significant investment.”

Some of the bills being considered during this year’s legislative session — namely, those establishing a community economic district in Hilo — would shuffle management of the peninsula’s state-owned leases such that revenue from them could be used to fund ongoing renewal efforts.

The agency’s vote to support those measures “may be viewed in a positive light by the Legislature as it deliberates on the bills,” De Lima said. “I think we would want to continue the economic support, and we could use the resources to implement the plan that we adopted.”

The next meeting of the Banyan Drive Redevelopment Agency is scheduled for March 29.

Email Ivy Ashe at


Legislative update:

Of the eight proposed legislative bills relating to Hilo redevelopment, three died in the state Senate.

Their companion House measures are still alive, however.

HB 1479, which would establish a new community economic district in the Hilo industrial area and on the Waiakea Peninsula, had its final hearing Wednesday before the Finance committee.

Its Senate companion, SB 1292, was referred to its final committee, Ways and Means, but has not been scheduled for a hearing.

Three other House bills were referred to the Finance Committee: HB 1469, which would establish procedures for creating public land redevelopment districts; HB 575, allowing the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to extend certain types of leases beyond the currently allowable 65-year total; and HB1310, creating a redevelopment district on the Waiakea Peninsula.


They have not been scheduled for hearings.

Their companion measures in the Senate received no committee hearings and are dead.

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