Monday, March 04, 2024|
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A building is being constructed on Waianuenue Avenue in Hilo. A new county law aims to improve the process for obtaining building permits or permit extensions.
Hawaii County’s construction permitting process could become more efficient under a new law signed last week by Mayor Mitch Roth.
The law, which began life as Bill 84, amends and streamlines parts of the County Code regarding the issuance of building permits and permit extensions, standardizing the time it takes to receive them.
The new ordinance commits the county to a rigid deadline for granting permits. Applicants now will obtain a permit no later than 180 days after the date of submittal.
“In the past, you could ask for a permit and not get it for a year,” said Dennis Lin, community relations administrator for HPM Building Supply, who added that the county gradually has improved efficiency since its adoption of the Electronic Processing and Information Center — or EPIC — online permitting system.
Permit extensions have been similarly standardized. So long as a request for a permit extension is properly submitted at least 30 days before the expiration date, the county must decide whether to grant that request within 30 days of receiving it.
If the county fails to make a decision regarding a permit extension within 30 days, the permit does not expire until that decision is made.
The ordinance also establishes standardized timelines for construction permits to expire. Whereas before, there were two different timelines for owner-builders and contractors — owner-builders were given five years to complete work before their permits expired, while contractors were given three — now both groups have six years.
Permits issued after Aug. 17, 2020, have been retroactively granted expiration dates six years after their dates of issuance.
Hawaii County Department of Public Works spokeswoman Sherise Kanae-Kane said via email that the additional time allows builders to account for possible construction delays in case of a lack of available building materials or subcontractors.
Despite the potential benefits, contractors have been skeptical about some of the updates to the code. Lin said he and others wanted the county’s permit deadline not to be 180 days after the date of submission, but rather 180 days after the permit intake process, which he said can take a variable amount of time depending on the application or the county’s staffing at any given time.
Because of this, Lin said, one applicant could have less time than another to complete their necessary paperwork because the county took too long on the intake process, which other people echoed during the bill’s progress through the County Council.
“One applicant could have 160 days while the next one has 30 days because of unforeseen issues that arose in the DPW or other county offices requiring review input,” wrote Jennifer Wilkinson for an October committee hearing.
Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy told the Tribune-Herald that starting the clock on the day of submittal allows DPW to monitor an application’s progress and devote more resources to those moving more slowly.
“We’re committing to getting in and out in six months,” Lee Loy said. “We want to start tracking that as soon as the permits get submitted.”
Lin said he thinks the intentions of the bill are good, but only time will tell if it bears out.
“It’s hard to say if it’ll actually be more efficient,” Lin said. “This is just something on paper. If it gives them a goal to shoot for, I guess that’s a good thing.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.