Builders provide tips on expediting permiting process

Us Guys Builder owner Bob Bentley has been a licensed contractor on Kauai since 1982.

Bentley says he has heard complaints from homeowners following waits of five to ten weeks to get county permits to build their homes.

But Bentley, also a general engineer, has told his customers to remain calm during the lengthy process. He suggested they provide detailed building plans, and work closely with county permit reviewers.

The communication and rapport with county employees, Bentley says, opens the way for smoother interaction on future projects.

Some building homes may have complained they are losing money because of the lengthy permit process, but Bentley believes county permit reviewers have been working as efficiently and expeditiously as possible.

The reviewers have worked to make sure their approvals will result in the construction of a home that is safe to live in and poses no problems to surrounding properties, he said.

Bentley said an off-island client complained her plan was held up in a county engineering division for three months before it was approved.

County permit reviewers took that long because the land was located in a flood zone, and they wanted to make sure the home would not be put in a place where it could be damaged in the event of a flood, Bentley said.

That type of professionalism should be commended, he said.

“In fairness to the building people, the permit was held up that long because we didn’t give them the proper information for them to make the right decision (in a timely manner),” Bentley said.

The matter was resolved after a topographical map was submitted, he said.

Properties with slopes that present building challenges will take longer to approve than properties that are level and are easier to build on, Bentley said.

Bentley’s crews are currently building six homes in the Molokoa III subdivision in Lihue.

The permits were processed quickly because the property was engineered properly, meaning “water utilities were determined or put in place, curbs and street lights were put in, and there is a plan for trash pickup,” Bentley said.

Delays also have occurred because permit reviewers are asked to go out into the field to inspect building violations, Bentley also said.

“Engineers with (the county) Public Works department have to chase down a loose cannon, and this ties up the permit process for somebody else,” Bentley said.

Delays also may be attributed to a (property) “setback that is not noted,” or something as small as an unsigned document, Bentley said.

In general, homeowners waiting for homes to be built have found themselves in a fix because they have not submitted plans that are as complete as they can be, he said. Homeowners will likely see the permit process move smoothly if they provide plans that clearly explain what the construction of the home is all about.

“If owners only spent more money on their plans in the planning process, the permit process would be expedited,” he said. “That way there are no questions.”

A healthy construction industry and a demand for housing this year are also contributing to delays in the timely processing of permits, he said.

Bentley said the current demand for permits is the highest it has been since the rebuilding following Hurricane Iniki in 1992, when thousands of island homes were either destroyed, or severely damaged.

“It is phenomenal, I don’t think I have ever seen a boom like it is today,” he said. “To be able to get a permit in two months is almost a miracle.”

Hiring more people to review permits might go a long way toward the expediting of permits, he said.

The permit process moved faster after Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, responding to public concerns about permit delays during her term from 1994 to 2002, hired more permit reviewers, Bentley said.

“Since Kusaka and going into the (Mayor Bryan) Baptiste regime, I know it was better than it was several years ago,” Bentley said. “Maybe the new mayor and the council could come up with something to speed things up again, through the meeting of the minds.”

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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