County Council update

Aloha! Once again, it is time for the monthly update from our office.

Rules for short term vacation rentals (STVR)

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The County Department of Planning is in the process of crafting rules with the intention of putting into effect the guidelines for short term vacation rentals. These rules will govern the enforcement of Bill 108. The Ordinance is scheduled to take effect on April 1. On Feb. 28 and March 1, public forums were held in Kona and Hilo respectively. The intent of those forums was to seek public input as it pertains to the rules for Bill 108. The meetings were very well attended; I attended the one in Kona. At that meeting, over 40 people gave public testimony. Questions on the initial draft and then implementation of the rules were posed. Many valid points were brought up and some ambiguity was identified. During the meeting, I sat next to Planning Director Michael Yee, who was taking notes on the comments made and referring to the draft rules throughout the entire meeting. This was a difficult piece of legislation to craft and the rules are problematic as well. Though it is likely that not all constituents will be happy with the final rules, I do have confidence that the Planning Department is making every effort to produce rules that are balanced and fair.

House Bill 1180 – $60M

House Bill 1180 (or HB 1180) is a disaster relief bill introduced by Hawai‘i Island State House Representative Joy A. San Buenaventura (District 4), along with the support of her island colleagues, namely Representatives Richard P. Creagan (District 5), Nicole E. Lowen (District 6), Mark M. Nakashima (District 1), Richard H. K. Onishi (District 3), David A. Tarnas (District 7), and Chris Todd (District 2). Though much of the language in the bill pertain to the lava events in Puna, the intent of the is to aide in the relief of all our natural disasters of recent, including damages related to Hurricane Lane. As written, HB 1180 awards the County of Hawai‘i $20 million in direct appropriations and an additional $40 million in the form of a loan. This funding can then be used towards the required FEMA matching funds for our County to qualify for such financial relief. The match is 25 percent, thus qualifying our County for an additional $180 million in FEMA funds. However, the Legislature was very specific in its directions of these funds; the County must draft a resolution accepting the funds, the funds will be under the control of the Hawaii County Council, and an expenditure/progress report must be submitted to Legislature monthly. The State Senate Companion Bill 1302 (or SB 1302) is also in process and being expedited; we expect the funds to be available by late spring. A big shout out to our state House representatives named above, as well as our state senators Lorraine R. Inouye (District 4), Kaialii Kahele (District 1), Dru Mamo Kanuha (District 3), and Russell E. Ruderman (District 2) for working together to see this to fruition! Mahalo!

County Department of Environmental Management

Recently, a sewer fee increase was approved by the County Council. For those of you who were following it, the vote was 5 to 4. Though I am the sitting Chair of the specific committee which includes Environmental Management, and I am aware of the funding needed, I did not support it necessarily coming in this capacity. Only approximately 18 percent of our county is on the sewer system. The benefits from sewage management is to the county as it improves the water quality along the coastline for all island constituents. This then raises the question as to what is fair? Currently, we are exploring other avenues of funding operations. Additionally, our county has a huge capital cost, well in excess of $500 million as we work towards closing all cesspools by the 2050. All our counties are struggling with this and have started conversations with our federal Senators and Representatives to start seeking a solution. Stay tuned!

Waikoloa Village Area tour

On Feb. 25 myself and James Hustace, Chair of the South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee viewed many problematic areas in the village that constituents have been calling about and requesting assistance. Highest on the list was the condition of Paniolo Drive and the intersection of Paniolo Drive and Waikoloa Road. Paniolo Drive: This road is in desperate need of reconditioning. Concerns on the road conditions have been raised; this also includes the condition of the sidewalk at the Lua Kula Street intersection. Additionally there is concern for people driving too fast as they come down the hill approaching that intersection. Within the last several weeks, Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works Highways Division did attend to the crosswalk and put in some temporary repairs. As many of you might recall, we had a traffic/speed tracker stationed at that area of concern measuring speeds of the cars. What was found was though many were not going the speed limit, most of the traffic was under 45 mph.

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Paniolo Drive resurfacing: It costs approximately $300,000 a mile for a two-lane road. Paniolo Drive is four lanes. From the Waikoloa Road intersection to the school is about 1.5 miles. At $600,000 a mile, this gives us an estimate of approximately $1.2 million to resurface that road only. Waikoloa Road and Paniolo Drive intersection: The community has been asking about this intersection and what measures can be done to improve safety. Options before us are traffic lights, or a traffic circle. Estimates I have been given are between $1 and $2 million for traffic lights, and between $3 and $4 million for a traffic circle. I am seeking funds to have evaluations and planning done to address these important issues there in Waikoloa Village.

As always, it continues to be a great privilege to serve as your Councilman.

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