Hotel demolition, Pohoiki boat ramp bills advance

HILO — A state Senate committee advanced bills two weeks ago in support of a new boat ramp for Puna and demolition of the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel.

The Puna boat ramp bill, SB 472, would provide $1 million to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to study the feasibility and cost of constructing a new boat launch site.

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That would replace the one at Isaac Hale Beach Park that was enclosed by a new black sand beach from the recent Kilauea eruption. It’s the only ramp in Puna.

The Senate Water and Land Committee, chaired by Sen. Kai Kahele, passed the bill unanimously.

It was introduced by Sens. Russell Ruderman, Lorraine Inouye and Dru Kanuha. The legislation will next be heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Rep. Joy San Buenaventura introduced a companion bill in the House (HB 641).

Water and Land also unanimously passed SB 1142, introduced by Kahele, to provide up to $6 million over two years to demolish the former Uncle Billy’s site, located on state land.

Uncle Billy’s reached the end of its land lease in 2016.

The site is currently managed by the owners of the adjacent Naniloa hotel.

Tower Development, the managing partner for the 388-room Naniloa, was the only company that responded to a DLNR solicitation regarding interest in redeveloping the site.

In its response, Tower said it wants to build a new 125-room hotel, estimated to cost $38.5 million.

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The company also was offering to provide the county with 2 acres of land for “county park and parking uses” that is currently part of the golf course under the Naniloa lease.

The bill will next be heard by Ways and Means.