The successful appeal of a Planning Department decision spurred Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford to craft a bill requiring a department representative to visit the site of proposed subdivisions.
Ford, who has been outspoken during council and committee meetings about her concerns regarding the Planning Department, said the Missler case in 2012 triggered her to try to create a site inspection requirement.
“Nobody went out and looked at this (property) to see it was filled with ravines,” Ford said, referring to the Waikakuu Ranch property that developers wanted to put a planned unit development on. The ravines were deep and more than 100 feet wide in some places, and not appropriate for the proposed development, she said.
Further, plan reviewers failed to note the presence of endangered trees and plants, and that the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat fed on the property, Ford said.
That’s not unusual, she added.
“(The Planning Department) just rubberstamps whatever the developer asks for,” Ford said. “I’m just fed up with the whole routine we go through to accommodate developers. … The developers laugh all the way to the bank at how stupid Hawaii County is.”
When developers are granted certain exemptions — say if they are allowed to develop a subdivision with just catchment water tanks, as happened recently in Ka‘u — the county ends up being asked to pick up the tab later to bring those subdivisions up to code, Ford said.
Ford said she’s also worried about the Planning Department and county officials hiding information from the public.
“It’s not fair to the public or the future owners of the units,” she said.
The council’s Planning Committee sent the measure, Bill 182, to the county’s two planning commissions in January. The Leeward Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the bill at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the West Hawaii Civic Center.
Planning Director Duane Kanuha recommended the commissioners send the bill back to the council with an unfavorable recommendation.
“To require a site inspection for every application is not a practical use of staff time,” Kanuha’s recommendation report said. “Simple consolidation or small lot subdivisions may not require an inspection.”
In 2013, the Planning Department reviewed 107 subdivisions and 31 consolidations, the report said.
“With the current upswing in our economy, we anticipate that subdivision applications will continue to increase,” the report said.
The department relies on the applicant to provide accurate plat maps, the report said, and the council could consider requiring a licensed engineer or surveyor to prepare both the preliminary and final plat maps. That would require an amendment to the subdivision code, the report said.
Ford said she was not surprised to learn the department opposed the bill.