Big Island State Senator Kai Kahele and State Representative Mark Nakashima have introduced companion bills to provide an economic boost for Hilo’s business community. We have more about the proposals from HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken.
For years, areas of Hilo under control of some state entities have had sluggish to no development. The lands have been on very short term leases, with little incentive for lessors to make improvements. State Senator Kai Kahele of Hilo says he and Representative Nakashima are focusing on long term stability and funding for Hilo.
Kai:. “It would be the Hilo Community Economic District, a long range master planning vision for East Hawai'i and the Hilo community under the Hawai'i Community Development Authority.
The HCDA falls under the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, a state agency that has other model communities, Kaka’ako, Kaleiloa, He’eia. This Hilo Community Economic District will be the first one created on the outer islands, it’s very specific to public trust lands managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and could include lands under the Department of Transportation. Banyan Drive, Wailoa State Park and Waterways, Bayfront lands, Kanoelehua Area Industrial Land, lands around the airport and Hilo Harbor Pier area.”
Although Senator Kahale’s predecessor and father, Gil Kahele, worked with then Mayor Billy Kenoi to establish an agency to improve Banyan Drive, the tourism heart of Hilo, that effort had no real authority nor funds. The current bills provide for a newly created special fund. Land lease revenues would still go to the state and Department of Hawaiian Homelands, but funding would also come to the Hilo Community Economic District for real improvements.
House Bill 1479 had its first hearing last week. The Senate Bill 1292 hearing is Friday afternoon..