Nearly an acre of land in Hawi would be preserved as a community park under a proposal the Hawaii County Council Finance Committee supported Tuesday.
The land purchase, which requires a vote at the council level, would be done through the county’s Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation fund.
The 0.911-acre grass lot has been used as a community gathering place for decades, Hawi residents told the committee. But, without county ownership, the land near the intersection of Akoni Pule Highway and Hawi Road could be lost to development, testifiers said.
“There’s no place quite like it,” Lisa Andrews told the committee.
“It’s very valuable and very precious.”
The property’s owners, David and Shelly Lucas of Holualoa, told the committee it was their dream to buy the property.
But they said they are happy to sell it to the county, and scratch their development plans, for the benefit of town residents.
“It became clear to us that it really is the town park,” David Lucas said.
The purchase price would be determined by a third party appraisal, said Ken Van Bergen, county property manager.
The county last assessed it at $515,900.
The property was last purchased for $450,000 in May 2013, according to county property records.
The Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission lists the property as No. 8 on its prioritized list of lands to acquire for public use.
The resolution for the purchase of the property refers to it as the “Banyan Trees Park Area.”
Several testifiers supporting the purchase said they want to protect the iconic trees.
Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille told Stephens Media Hawaii the banyan trees are located on adjacent properties but noted residents get the most use out of the grass lot. She said the county could seek to purchase the neighboring properties with the trees in the future.
The committee also voted to accept the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission’s annual report from December.
The report recommends 15 areas for purchase under the fund, including the Hawi property.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.