City will address backlog
in building permits today

A proposal would have third parties assist
an understaffed planning department

Mayor Jeremy Harris was scheduled to announce today how the city plans to expedite building permits for large and complex construction projects.

A city spokeswoman declined comment until today's announcement, but Councilman Charles Djou, chairman of the Zoning Committee, said the administration has been working on what's called a third-party review permit approval process.

Djou, who introduced a resolution calling on the city administration to implement such a process, said he had hoped the program would get off the ground sooner, but was waiting for the administration to wrap up final details, including the approval of rules.

Delays in issuing building permits hurt the economy, Djou said. "It's an economic issue. It's also a money issue. Things get so long it increases the cost of doing business in Hawaii."

Djou also said the longer these projects are delayed, the less property tax revenue comes into the city.

A booming housing market has led the sharp rise in building permits, while Department of Planning and Permitting staffing has declined over the last few years.

That combination has contributed to a backlog of building permits to be processed by the department.

Under the program, developers of large projects would have the option of getting certified private sector architects and engineers to review their building plans to see if they meet building codes, Djou said.

"They will be allowed to stamp documents as if it had gone through DPP," Djou said. "You don't have to go to (DPP). You can go through a third party. (The city) will accept as if they had reviewed it."

Djou's resolution also said: "The third-party review system would provide applicants submitting building plans with the opportunity to expedite the plan review process and reduce the workload of the department."

One of the hang-ups of implementing the project was a concern over who would assume the liability if the work is taken up by the private sector.

"The architects didn't want to accept. They don't want to stamp a project and five years down, all of a sudden a problem occurs and the new homeowner sues the architect (because) it didn't meet the building code," Djou said.

Djou said that whatever system the administration announces today, it will be welcome relief. "Any little bit helps," he said.

City & County of Honolulu



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