Vacation time means processing of building permits can take longer

Usually, the county Department of Public Works Building Division can turn around building permits for commercial projects in two to three weeks, according to division head Doug Haigh.

Sometimes, though, if plans aren’t complete, if representatives of other agencies have problems with the plans, or if the short-staffed Building Division has an illness or vacation leave among its members, the length of time can be much longer, he said.

It is best to avoid the summer months, when division personnel take vacations that necessitate working supervisors review plans in addition to their other duties, said Haigh.

That slows things down, he warned. “Summer’s usually not that good of a time,” because of workers taking vacation.

On the commercial side, supervising building inspectors review most of the plans, but are also called to fill in for regular field inspectors when those field inspectors are out on leave, he said.

Also, though Building Division personnel are the first ones to get the plans in hand, they are the last ones to approve them, after they have been circulated to various other agencies for approvals, Haigh explained.

Employees in other county departments, specifically water and planning, sometimes have questions or concerns about plans that lead to delays in permit issuance, Haigh noted.

“It’s so project-specific” that it’s tough to put an average length of time on an average commercial project, from submittal of plans to issuance of building permit, he said.

“Some are easy, and some are difficult.”

Mike Furukawa, a vice president at Grove Farm Company, Inc., says the time from application for to issuance of commercial building permits can range from a few months to over a year, depending on the complexity and completeness of plans, and the people you have ushering the plans through governmental approval processes.

He agreed with Haigh that both current and previous mayoral building-permit task forces formed to look at ways to streamline the permitting process have made the process quicker.

A building-permit checklist is provided for commercial projects, “so that the consultants are forced to go through the plans with building permit in mind, and make sure they’re complying with all of our key, critical codes,” said Haigh.

Not only has that helped commercial developers, but the checklist has helped make it easier for Building Division employees to approve plans and issue building permits, Haigh continued.

As Haigh found out firsthand recently, even the county isn’t immune from unexpected delays brought about by its own permit-approval processes.

“We gotta go through the same process,” said Haigh, who is working on the Kapaa-to-Kealia bike path project.

Because of a problem with that project’s environmental assessment, another six months has been added to the project time “that we didn’t plan on,” he said.

“We don’t get no break on our county projects, permitting-wise.”

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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