HNL Planning Director: "Public, Along With Private Property Rights, Are Our Top Priority" In Building Permit Review
by Robert Thomas, InverseCondemnation.com
A quick one. An op-ed from the February 27 Honolulu Star-Advertiser by the newly-appointed Director of Honolulu's Department of Planning and Permitting. In "City followed law in issuing Hao Street development permit," he makes some good points in this piece about building permits for two single-family homes in east Honolulu, points we don't usually see being made by government officials. Unfortunately, its mostly behind a firewall (come on, you should subscribe to Hawaii's paper of record), but here are the most interesting bits:
Building and grading permits are ministerial, meaning the city cannot lawfully deny them if the plans meet applicable codes. Residents may object to new homes being built in their neighborhood, but the owner is allowed by right to do so under the law.
For example, assume your lifetime dream is to build a family home. You then purchase a property zoned for residential use; however, your neighbors object and demand that the city prevent you from building on this property after you have expended money, time and resources. By law, we must treat every property owner equally and cannot deny one's rights, while allowing the same rights to others.
A recent letter to the editor ("Project raises many questions," Star-Advertiser, Feb. 20) accused DPP of denying requests for information until after the permits were approved. Unlike discretionary permits, where public input is openly sought from the beginning, building and grading permit applications are ministerial and there is no requirement of prior public notification.
We understand the concerns of residents near the development, but we can assure them that the health and safety of the public, along with private property rights, are our top priority when we review and approve building permit applications.
For more about the "ministerial vs. discretionary" distinction and the "vested rights" doctrine under Hawaii law, check out this law review article we did a few years ago on the subject.
Related: Former DPP Head Running Controversial Wailupe Valley Project, Residences at Aina Haina: Jeff Stone's Plans in Wailupe Valley Opposed