(Editor’s note: Following is an open letter Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance president Graham Ellis wrote to Puna Councilman Zendo Kern regarding the alternative building code.)
A growing number of your constituents, actually people who voted for you, are increasingly disappointed in the lack of progress with the Alternative Building Code. Our organization has a petition to Mayor Kenoi signed by 253 constituents requesting action. From your reports, the Dept. of Public Works has had your draft since February 2013. It is nearly a year later and there are still no signs of progress.
In October 2010 the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance introduced a resolution which was unanimously passed by the County Council. The resolution resolved that “the Dept of Public Works shall establish an Alternative Building Code.” We now realize that the wording of that Resolution was not strong enough to get the Dept of Public Works to actually move on this issue. We are therefore planning another Resolution for the County Council with new language that will create deadlines for the DPW to act on the consensus of the representatives of the people of the island.
As the Council Member for a part of Puna that has probably the highest concentration of ‘unpermitted but occupied dwellings’ on the island, we invite you introduce this resolution. Puna folks are requesting this new code but it affects all districts of the island to some degree.
The Dept of Public Works estimate there are more than 7,000 unpermited but occupied homes on the island.
Many thousands of our residents are affected by this, living as ‘outlaws’ with a fear that ‘someone’ could ‘at some time’ turn them into the County authorities and cause big trouble. Enforcement staff in the Planning Dept. and the Dept. of Public Works state that many complaints are frivolous, fraudulent and even blatantly vindictive. Because reports are confidential they breed suspicion amongst neighbors and even close friends. This can destroy relationships and is the complete antithesis of a system promoting community connectedness and trust. In many cases county codes and staff are used as a weapon to harm otherwise law abiding resident homeowners.
Duane Kanuha, recognizes this and recently suggested to Russell Ruderman this could be resolved with a new category of dwellings titled “Recorded, not permitted”, with the homeowner signing a waiver to indemnify the County against any claims. We would like to know if this an approach you would like to pursue? It seems like a very viable and easy solution for the County and the public. Please get back to us soon on this subject.
Graham Ellis, President
Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance