East Hawaii News

Banyan Drive Improvement Bill Dead for Session

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A bill that would have created a “development district” to help foster improvements on Banyan Drive has been put on hold at the state Legislature.

State Rep. Jerry Chang had proposed the measure to kick-start new development in Hilo’s primary tourist area. The “East Hawaii Community Development District” Chang sought to create would have taken control of the state land making up most of the property along Banyan Drive where 85% of East Hawaii’s visitor accommodations are located.

But the state House Committee on Water, Land and Ocean Resources, which Chang chairs, on Friday deferred further action on the bill. Chang (D-South Hilo) said Monday that while he appreciated support for the measure that came from the Hilo community, he decided to kill the bill following concerns expressed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The DLNR is the agency that controls those state leases and receives the revenues paid by the leaseholders which include two hotels and several buildings containing apartments and condominiums (see related article: Expiring Leases Prompt Condo Fire Sale). The department’s director, William Aila, Jr., told Chang’s committee that revenues from Banyan Drive leases help fund the management of the 1.3 million acres statewide under the DLNR’s control.


“Obviously, we don’t want to short-change them and take away that revenue stream in these tight economic times,” Chang said.

Aila told committee members that his department would prefer that any development of the properties be done through the Public Land Development Corporation, which was established by the Legislature in 2011.

Chang’s Banyan Drive development district was patterned after the PLDC which is designed to establish public-private partnerships for development of state lands across Hawaii. But concerns about the PLDC’s broad powers have sparked the introduction of a variety of legislation this session.


The bills introduced include several that would either dissolve PLDC immediately or place a “sunset” date limiting the length of its existence. Others seek to limit its powers by amending state law to require that PLDC projects place greater emphasis on public health and safety, on environmental sustainability and on protecting historically significant sites.

However, those bills appear to have a rough going in the state Senate, particularly in the Committee on Water, Land and Housing chaired by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who championed the PLDC last year.

Chang said he doesn’t believe bills dissolving or severely limiting the PLDC’s powers will go far this session, as the majority of lawmakers seem willing to at least give the venture a try.


“We’ve got to give them a chance to get going,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dela Cruz, a Democrat who represents parts of Oahu near the North Shore, has introduced a handful of measures of his own strengthening the PLDC.


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