HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Honolulu City Council said the Department of Planning and Permitting needs to start improving its systems for people waiting on permits as some of those waiting could find their application stuck in the cue for upwards of a year.
Permit delays are an ongoing issue for the City’s DPP, and City Council Chair Tommy Waters said his office gets calls daily from constituents experiencing long wait times to hear back about their permit application status.
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Waters said, “People are blaming us on the council, people are saying ‘why are you not doing anything to help the DPP.'”
Waters introduced a resolution that calls for an audit of the DPP. Waters said he hopes the audit could find areas of improvement and solutions.
Meanwhile, the DPP Acting Director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, who has been on the job for six weeks, said the department is already working on modernization projects.
“The day that I started I made permitting a priority, that is our top priority,” Apuna said. “We are meeting with our division heads, and trying to dig in and figure out what the issues are.”
Meanwhile, Councilmember Andria Tupola said she has heard feedback from contractors who said part of the backlog is caused by lumping different types of applications together.
Tupola said, “A lot of people are stuck in the same line whether it is solar, a fence or building a house.”
The Nakoa Companies Senior Estimator Eric Olson has more than 30 years of experience in the construction industry. He said there are smaller projects that could be reviewed more efficiently. He said plans that have already been approved and signed off by engineers could be expedited, and even approved over the counter.
“Certainly, you know, smaller projects like solar projects, those could be over the counter,” Olson said, “Maybe smaller construction projects on a residential level, that are under a certain amount, maybe $100,000. Those are all pretty basic projects.”
Tupola proposed for the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee to delay a vote on the resolution seeking an audit of the DPP, and give the acting director time to implement changes.
Apuna said the department will be updating its pre-screening process of permit applications.
The DPP said there are about 3,200 applications that require prescreening. The new system will check building plans for formatting errors and the plans will be returned to the applicant automatically for corrections.
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“That’s in our first phase of our permitting that should be operational in about three weeks,” Apuna said. “And then once it’s operational it will take a couple of weeks for the bot to go through all the pre-screen applications and to basically eliminate the cue.”