Munechika hopes to speed up building permit process

Kauai County Councilman Joe Munechika said he plans to take the lead in trying to ease the delays for building permits that have frustrated homebuilders and homeowners.

Munechika said the average 110 days it takes for the issuance of county permits is too long, and that a 30-day time period is more reasonable.

“Permits for a single-family home should be pretty cut and dry, because they come in all the time,” Munechika said.

He said he will recommend to Mayor Bryan Baptiste and the council ways to expedite the permit process.

They include simultaneous review of permits and a one-stop permit center staffed by representatives from the county planning department, public works department, the fire department and the state Department of Health.

With construction up due to lower interest rates and more applications being filed, the council and county administration officials have studied ways to expedite the permit process.

Munechika said the delays hurt the homebuilders and the county.

“Time is money for everybody. The delays also could mean the county won’t get the real property tax income (needed for public services and county improvements).”

The council has asked administration officials to provide a statistical breakdown on the different types of building construction to try to pinpoint where permit delays have occurred.

Once the council has the data and has been able to analyze it, “we can try to fix the problem,” Munechika said. “If it is a matter of manpower, maybe we can give them that. If it is a technical thing, we can upgrade their computers,” he said.

County officials have said that delays are attributed to a number of reasons, including delivery of incomplete plans, absence of maps, difficult geographical terrain requiring more study and missing signatures on documents.

Munechika said he is not blaming any of the county permit reviewers, and only wants to help them.

As he understands it, the permit applications are routed first to the planning department, then to building division, which sends out the plans and permit applications to the fire department, DOH and any other reviewing agency, Munechika said.

The problem is that a single application is routed to individual agencies, gobbling up too much time before the permits are finally issued, Munechika contended.

To alleviate the problem, Munechika suggested multiple applications be sent out to the agencies, an idea also voiced and supported by some other council members.

“I think you need to send those out simultaneously, it could cut the permit process by half, at the very least,” Munechika said. “Right not it just goes back and forth.”

He also suggested establishing a one-stop permit processing center. To keep cost down, the center would be opened only a few days a week or maybe only one day and staffed with existing county employees.

That way, a wide array of expertise would be made readily available to homeowners seeking permits, Munechika said.

In the alternative, the center could be a place where people can get instructions on what they need to have completed before they actually submit their permit requests, Munechika said.

This process would save time for the homeowners and make the most efficient use of government employees, Munechika said. “Even if the homeowners aren’t ready (to apply for the permits), they can get briefed on how to expedite their permit,” he said.

The center also could be a place where applicants can check on pending permit requests, Munechika said.

Munechika said permit delays go back to his days when he sat on the council from 1986 to 1994.

“In the old days when I sat on the council, if I recall right, the permit process took 60 days,” he said. “Even then we said it was too long.”

Munechika said the idea for a one-stop center came to him again with the latest round of frustrations voiced by the public over the lengthy permit process.

He said his ideas are as valid as any that will come forward to solve a long-standing problem. “We need to try to make it easier for people, because it benefits them and it benefits the county,” Munechika said.

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

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