Contractors complain city’s permitting delays are forcing workforce lay-offs

Permitting department pledges to find ways to improve.
The Department of Planning and Permitting issues about 20,000 building permits a year, but says...
The Department of Planning and Permitting issues about 20,000 building permits a year, but says staffing shortage has slowed down plan-checking process.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Oct. 17, 2018 at 8:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city’s Department of Planning and Permitting issues about 20,000 building permits a year, but contractors say the department takes so long to issue some permits they’re losing jobs and laying off workers.

"All of our work is locked up at the DPP," said Marshall Hickox, president of Homeworks Construction, Inc.

He says contractors can wait up to a year to get a permit for jobs as simple as home remodels.

"It's inexcusable to create this backlog of work that's there that we can't get to," he said.

The department’s deputy director, Timothy Hiu, said DPP is working as hard as it can to deal with the backlog.

“Yes, there are particular instances that some permits are taking longer,” he said.

Hiu says DPP is taking corrective steps by hiring more plan checkers and by preparing to use other personnel to review plans.

"That will assist us greatly in the ability to start processing some of these applications," he said.

Contractors formed the Oahu Homebuilders Coaltion to lobby city officials to put pressure on the DPP to improve. Hickox believes permit approvals will only get faster when the department stops flagging drawings over things that could be corrected after a project starts.

He said one of his projects was delayed three months over the location of one smoke detector in the drawings he submitted to DPP. He said it would be better to make those kinds of corrections during construction.

"Let us be responsible for meeting the code and safety issues, and those types of items that can be done in the field," he said.

But Hiu insists the city must abide by regulations that require drawings be thoroughly inspected — and he says contractors can help.

"If they produce the drawings and product that is very well presented, yes, they can get a permit much quicker," he said.

In hopes of speeding up the permit process, contractors helped some City Council members with Bill 64. It sets a 60-day time limit for the DPP to issue building permits for one- and two-family homes. The council’s Zoning and Housing Committee will meet to discuss the measure Thursday.

"The system needs to be revamped," Hickox said.

Hiu said his department is reorganizing and will eventually be more efficient. He's hoping contractors cooperate.

“Together we will solve this problem,” he said.

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