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Planning Department announces additional fees for repeat building permit reviews

By Staff | Mar 15, 2018

WAILUKU – Beginning this month, the county Planning Department will start to charge fees when it has to repeatedly review building permit applications.

Building permits are typically routed to a variety of departments for them to check compliance with their individual codes and rules. Most building permits are routed to the Planning Department for review for compliance with land use laws.

The department estimates that only ten percent of the building permits it receives are approved on their first review.

Twenty percent require a second review, and the rest – 70 percent – require three or more reviews.

A new fee structure approved by the Maui County Council and enacted into law in January allows the department to charge for these additional reviews.

The first review is free; the second will cost $250, the third will cost an additional $500 and any additional reviews will be an additional $1,000 each.

In return, the dsepartment must be diligent in providing the applicant with the additional information needed for it to approve a permit in order to minimize the additional reviews needed.

If the department does not catch a needed item on one of its reviews and does not inform the applicant, then no charge will be assessed for the additional review of that item.

“The repeated reviews of building permits is one of the main reasons that we do not get through our permit reviews as quickly as the public would like,” said Deputy Planning Director Michele McLean.

“We hope that this fee structure will be a deterrent to incomplete or inadequate plans. It also puts the burden on us to make sure that our first review is complete and thorough, and that we inform applicants clearly of what we need to give our approval. This will benefit all applicants overall and will improve the department’s efficiency in processing.”

Based on the number of permits that the department reviews, and that only ten percent are approved on the first pass, the department estimates that the new fee structure could generate more than $700,000 annually if it does not have a deterrent effect.

“We are not looking for a revenue source; we are hoping that this will improve the quality of the plans that we receive so that we can approve many more permits on our first review, which means that we can get to all of our reviews more quickly,” McLean added. “We have tried other ways to accomplish this, and hopefully this one will work.”

The department did not begin charging the fees immediately after the bill was passed (Ordinance No. 4794, which took effect on Jan. 9, 2018), because it wanted to have a clear process in place and make sure that the public was informed.

“When we tell an applicant that more information is needed, we will be thorough in describing everything that we need, and will also inform them of the fee structure for additional reviews,” said McLean.

“That should limit the third and fourth reviews; we should be able to approve most permits on the second review if applicants provide everything that we tell them we need.”

For more information contact Deputy Director McLean at michele.mclean@mauicounty.gov.

In related news, Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa signed a proclamation that accepts the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report that was prepared by the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission and released in December 2017, as mandated by the State Legislature.

The proclamation acknowledges that climate change is real and directs “County departments to use the Report in their plans, programs and capital improvement decisions, to mitigate impacts to infrastructure and critical facilities triggered by sea level rise.”

It also calls on the Planning Department to propose rule changes to the Maui, Molokai and Lanai Planning Commissions to include sea level rise in their shoreline setback calculations.

As the mayor noted in his recent State of the County address, Maui County was the first county in the state to adopt shoreline setback formulas that include annual erosion hazard rates.

“This means that when it comes to all county plans, especially the Maui County Hazard Mitigation Plan and our community plans, all of them need to take into consideration the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaption Report,” he said.

“Planning for these changes means we may have to relocate infrastructure and critical facilities out of hazard areas, which means we may have to ask the council for the funds to make these capital improvement decisions. This heightened attention on how sea level rise impacts Maui County has the potential to affect communities, culture, history and natural resources and cannot be taken lightly.”

“We appreciate the leadership that the mayor has shown in issuing the proclamation and in supporting changes to the shoreline setback formula,” said McLean.