Ask the Mayor: Building Permits; Homeowner Exemptions
By Mayor Alan Arakawa
Mayor Alan Arakawa answers a few of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.
Q: As a longtime Kahului resident, I have noticed that the residential area over the years has construction that appears not to be in compliance with zoning and building codes, such as apartment-type buildings, rental units, multiple-family dwellings that are constructed in addition to the allowed second dwelling on a lot. Also, there are a number of building extensions which extend up to the property line not respecting the set back line. My understanding is that any construction that takes place requires a building permit, so do these buildings have the County’s blessings? I have also noticed a number of commercial-type activity within the residential area like the overnight parking of large trucks, heavy equipment, commercial-type boats and large trailers on the road right-of-way.
A: All structures need building permits unless they are specifically exempt. Building permits are processed by the Department of Public Works, Development Services Administration (DSA). They review permits for compliance with the building code, which includes building setbacks and heights. Most building permits are also routed to the Planning Department to determine compliance with zoning, which includes the number or density of dwellings allowed on each lot. Assuming that street parking is allowed, the parking of commercial vehicles and boats in a residential area can be a gray area. If there is no commercial activity being conducted on the residential lot, then there probably is not a violation. Some businesses allow their employees to take work vehicles home; however, if commercial activity is taking place, then it could be a zoning violation. If you are aware of construction without permits, construction that may not be in compliance with permits, or commercial activity in residential areas, then you may file a Request for Service which can lead to an inspection by Public Works and/or Planning.
Q: With property taxes being the largest revenue generator for the County, why doesn’t the County ask residents to positively certify compliance with the homeowner exemption on a yearly basis? A simple statement on the property tax assessment reminding us of what the requirement is such as, “I certify under penalty of law that I lived in the stated property a minimum of 200 days in 2012,” might suffice.
A: Indeed, it’s important to make sure that only bona fide residents receive the homeowner exemption on their property tax bill. Rather than asking residents to self-certify, the Real Property Tax Assessment Division runs the Homeowner exemptions against resident tax payer lists from the state of Hawaii, and addresses are compared to listings from the US Postal Service. These comparisons are run electronically, which makes them very efficient. With over 26,500 homeowner exemption parcels, processing this much mail annually would be costly, time-consuming and less effective than the current system.
Q: I am writing about the continued decrepit condition of Amala Place road in Kahului. This road is in absolutely horrible condition and creates a very bad impression of Maui as it is traveled by many tourists by way of the cruise ships and to the airport. The only safe way to traverse it – especially after a rain – is to drive on the shoulder where the pavement is in slightly better condition. Can you please see what you can do about getting this properly paved? I don’t mean filling in of potholes, which happens each time it rains.
A: The good news is that Amala Place will be repaved sometime this year in conjunction with the Wastewater Reclamation Division’s force main project. The paving project will run from Hobron Lane to the Kahului Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Want to Ask the Mayor? Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email: AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov, phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.