Building A Home in West Hawaii? Permitting Just Got Faster

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Last year, land sales were starting to outpace home sales, as prices increased for existing homes and buyers turned to the possibility of building their own homes. LUVA Real Estate was responsible for many of these land deals and helped connect buyers to local construction companies. During this time, Kona was also experiencing construction on many new projects around town and at school campuses.

However, from single family home developers, to the anxious business owners of the new Magic Sands Grill to frustrated non-profit organizations racing to use grant money for a new community kitchen at Kona Pacific Public Charter School, the delay in the projects was the construction permits. Getting a building permit has been a challenge as the permit process is stuck in red tape as the County changed how it was reviewing permits to ensure each person in the process was reviewing each permit, but they could not review them all at the same time. Add to that there are only two officials who can make the final call on the entire island. These delays have created a bottle neck for new developments, new housing, and more.

Key administrators responsible for county permitting explained how they are attempting to fix the system at A meeting convened at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. Merrick Nishimoto, deputy director of Public Works; Neal Tanaka, Building Division Acting deputy director; Sheila Cadaoas, EnerGov project director; and county supervising inspectors and reviewers came together with a group of interested parties assembled by the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce to discuss the county’s plans to reform the system and answer community concerns. The problems are many, but hopefully, a key to permitting reform is the implementation of a new cloud-based tracking system called EnerGov, used by municipalities across the nation, to which the county is currently converting 46 of its permits.

While “the new system is only one facet to permitting reform,” according to Nishimoto, “it is a critical part, that will really help with transparency and tracking.” With the new system, plan submission is digital for many permits, plans can be reviewed concurrently by different reviewers, workflow is automated, the system integrates with County GIS (Geographic Information System) and Tax Records, and plan review comments are visible to all, to hopefully avoid multiple conflicting plan revision requests, as can happen now. The system is projected to go live at the end of the second quarter of this year and all projects currently in the system are being transitioned to it.

Current permitting problems are certainly an issue, and the anticipated reforms don’t solve everything, but it’s a start. Nashimoto stated that the end goal is to give people the ability to go online from the start of the permitting process and empower them to be as aware as possible of what’s going on with their property.

LUVA Real Estate will keep you posted on the update in the permitting process as it wends its way to fruition. If you would like to discuss buying land or an existing home, please contact us and we can show you what is available now.