Honolulu council passes bill that would fast-track some building permits

Published: Nov. 14, 2018 at 8:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s objection the Honolulu council approved a new law that fast-tracks some building permits.

Soon Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting could be required to process applications for one and two-family homes within 60 days of receiving them.

It’s a change welcomed by many in the building industry.

For years contractors say they’ve been caught in a Catch 22. Forced to choose between not working and illegally starting basic projects without permits.

Despite plenty of work, the project coordinator at Atlas Construction says permit delays have halted construction.

“We are going through a crisis,” said Joshua Vasconcellos. “Right now we are doing no business. We are at a phase where we can no longer wait.”

It’s gotten so bad some companies say they’re even laying off workers.

“Sometimes we have plans sitting for two, three, four months without even being reviewed,” said Vasconcellos. “I have certain family members who are close to a year now that are currently waiting for a permit.”

The head of the agency in charge of approving permit applications admitted the system is flawed.

“We won’t deny it,” said Kathy Sokugawa. “Our current permit processing time is taking a lot longer than the construction industry can tolerate.”

However Sokugawa warned warned the law likely wouldn’t improve the overall process.

“If there are unresolved issues that come up in the construction phase that would have been addressed in the permit review phase that’s going to delay the construction phase,” said Sokugawa.

In the end the council agreed benefits outweighed the risks unanimously passing the bill.

“By not moving the bill forward we have done nothing. So even if it’s just a first step. There are still many steps that have to be taken,” said council chairman Ernie Martin.

The bill is now on it’s way to the Mayor’s desk. Caldwell has 10 business days to either veto it or allow it to go into law.

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