Banyan Drive bills dead

  • The old Uncle Billy's property on Banyan Drive in Hilo is pictured in this file photo. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)
  • ONISHI
  • TODD
  • Hotels line Banyan Drive in Hilo. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo)

HILO — Redevelopment of Banyan Drive will have to wait until next year once again after the failure of three bills earlier this year.

Legislation that would have allocated 10 percent of the state’s land lease revenues in the Banyan Drive area to a redevelopment agency failed to pass through a conference committee last year, while three more bills with similar goals all died at various points throughout this year’s legislative session.

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One of the bills, Senate Bill 914, was a second version of last year’s bill, which ultimately passed through the Senate but failed to pass through all of its committees in the House, finally stalling in March.

Another bill, House Bill 910, would have appropriated funds for the Office of Planning to conduct a study on the infrastructure of the Banyan Drive area. That bill also failed to pass all of its committees, despite passing its originating chamber.

The final bill, House Bill 1219, was deferred on Friday after a conference committee meeting. That bill was to have established a Waiakea Peninsula Redevelopment District across public lands in the Banyan Drive area and modernize policies for public land management.

Rep. Chris Todd, one of the co-introducers of the HB 1219, said the bill was deferred five minutes before the deadline to finalize the draft of the bill.

Rep. Richard Onishi, another co-introducer, said the bill had support from the House conferees and $200,000 of financial support as well. He added that he was hoping for $500,000, but thought the lesser amount would be sufficient.

However, Onishi said, conferees from the Senate evidently disagreed and chose to defer the bill at the last minute.

“There was no explanation,” Onishi said. “And we didn’t have time to ask because it was so last-minute.”

Sen. Lorraine Inouye, one of the Senate conferees, said that the decision to defer the bill came from fellow senator and conferee Kai Kahele.

Kahele did not respond to requests for comment.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Onishi said. “This is the second time it’s been killed so near the door.”

Onishi and Todd both said they would once again pursue Banyan Drive redevelopment legislation next year, with Onishi pointing out that HB 1219 isn’t technically dead but merely deferred until 2020 and could be revived next year as-is.

However, Onishi said he was worried about continually returning to failed bills.

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“I don’t know how many times we can come back and ask for this,” he said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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