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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Ka‘ū News Briefs, Thursday, March 24, 2022

Cleanup, demolition, and repair of old buildings and infrastructure at Punalu'u will be allowed under an SMA Minor permit and exemptions from  SMA permits that were recently issued by County of Hawai'i Planning Director Zendo Kern.
Photo by Bob Martin

A MINOR SPECIAL MANAGEMENT AREA PERMIT AND SOME EXEMPTIONS FROM SMA PERMITTING FOR WORK AT PUNALU'U have been approved for Black Sand Beach, LLC. by County Planning Director Zendo Kern. The Special Management Area designation, which aims to protect coastal resources, covers about 437 acres, all of the land owned by Eva Liu and Black Sand Beach, LLC, makai of Hwy 11.
    The Planning Director gave an exemption from the Minor Special Management Area permit for work described as cleanup, repair, demolition and maintenance. Sites authorized for SMA permit exemptions include the old Punalu'u Restaurant Complex next to the pond at Black Sand Beach where the Planning Director gave an SMA permit exemption for "Demolition of building components that are considered hazardous." Also exempted is "Removal of dilapidated building materials and trash from the restaurant complex area," and "Hand clearing of undergrowth and invasive species removal."

Demolition and removal of trash and materials from the abandoned
  Black Sand Beach Restaurant Area at Punalu'u will be allowed
under an exemption from an SMA permit. Photo by Bob Martin
   The county document explains the reason for exemption of these activities from Special Management Area permitting, saying they "can be considered exempt actions in accordance with SMA Rules and Regulations as they are primarily common or typical repair, maintenance and demolition activities."    
    The document also notes that demolition or removal of structures is exempt, "except those structures located on any historic sites as designated in national or state registers." At Punalu'u there are no sites listed on state or national registers. However, the county informs: "In the event that surface or subsurface historic resources, including human skeletal remains, structural remains (e.g., rock walls, terraces, platforms, etc.), cultural deposits, marine shell concentrations, sand deposits, or sink holes are identified during the demolition and/or construction work, the applicant shall cease work in the immediate vicinity of the find, protect the find from additional disturbance and contact the State Historic Preservation Division."
    Conditions of the SMA permit exemption include that "some minor machinery will be used to grind larger stumps into chips to be left on site. No grubbing or land alteration will occur within 20 feet of Punalu'u Pond, and lands makai of the pond."
    The county document says, "No work is proposed within the Shoreline Setback Area or Conservation District, and best management practices (BMPs) will be employed to mitigate any potential impacts to coastal resources and to protect the Punalu'u Pond."
Black Sand Beach, LLC posted this collage earlier this year
supporting its quest to clean up Punalu'u's dilapidated buildings
 and grounds. Images from Punaluu Community facebook
    Other projects at Punalu'u exempted from SMA permitting by the Planning Director include: Repair and maintenance of existing water and sewer lines and fire hydrants; repair and maintenance of existing private roadway, including clearing of encroaching vegetation, shoulder and pavement repair and streetlight repair; and repair and maintenance of existing irrigation system, including irrigation pond.
    The county document says, "The objective of the proposed project is to mitigate existing hazards from a largely unmaintained development and to repair the existing structures in this area to their original operating status."
    It says the Planning Director "finds that the proposed on-going repair and maintenance, landscaping, and other proposed activities listed above as 'exempt' for the Black Sands Beach/Punalu'u area project are exempt from the definition of 'development' and will not have a cumulative impact, or significant adverse environmental or ecological effect on the Special Management Area."
    In addition to the exemptions, the Planning Director approved an SMA Minor permit to allow Black Sand Beach, LLC. to apply for building and other permits for limited activities. They are: reconstruction of the tennis pro shop and tennis courts, the Sea Mountain Maintenance Center, and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies buildings. The Planning Director accepted the assessment from Black Sand that the valuation of the improvements for all three will total $225,000. Improvements valued at $500,000 or more would trigger the requirement for a major Special Management Area permit.
    The Minor SMA permit and the exemptions allow Black Sand to apply for grubbing, demolition, building and other permits from county, state and federal agencies where required to proceed with the project. The permit gives Black Sand Beach, LLC two years to acquire any permits required for work authorized under the SMA Minor permit.
    The document notes that "The project site is designated as a 'Minor Resort Area' by the Hawai'i County General Plan (GP), a designation that allows for no more than 500 visitor units and requires both active and passive recreational opportunities commensurate with the scale of development."

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THE STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS BY MAYOR MITCH ROTH was released on Thursday. He reviewed his administration of Hawai'i County to date:
    "When we took office in late 2020, we knew that our administration would be up against one of the toughest challenges our County had ever faced. At the time, the world and our island was in the grips of a growing global pandemic, and uncertainty for our residents, small businesses, and local industries was at an all-time high It was clear that we would have to do everything in our power to keep our people
working, businesses from closing, and our island’s economy from shutting down, as it did months prior.
    "To do that, we implemented policies that were data-driven and backed by the best information we could gather. We leveraged experts in epidemiology and public health and convened numerous working groups led by our Civil Defense Administration to define our response strategy and tactics. In total, we spent $125,598,396 in grants, government reimbursement funds, and county dollars to secure our ports of entry, amplify community testing, and launch widescale vaccination efforts when vaccines became readily available. Through our efforts, we vaccinated 148,870 individuals, administered over 439,375 COVID tests, and caught 18,828 positive cases here on Hawaiʻi Island.
    "We could not have pulled off such an incredible feat without our partners at the State, including Governor Ige, General Hara and the Hawaiʻi National Guard, Dr. Char, and the Department of Health, which includes Jason Dela Cruz, our on-island health officer, as well as the many community groups such as Community First and Mālama ya Hawaiʻi who stepped up in a time of need to convene, advise, and actively work towards a safer and healthier Hawaiʻi Island.
    "That said, the work of the Community cannot be understated Because of each and every one of you, we were able to keep our numbers in the hospital to a manageable level while significantly reducing the spread amongst our most vulnerable populations All without the need to divide our Community by implementing mandates or vaccination passports. Together we have overcome a tremendous amount, and on Friday, March 25, the governor’s emergency rules will sunset, marking our return to new and safer Hawaiʻi for us all.
    "So again, I say to you all – mahalo, mahalo, mahalo.
    "Aside from the tremendous community response. we knew that the key to a thriving Hawaiʻi Island would be to support our local small businesses, the backbone of our economy, in every way possible. And that is exactly what we did.
    "With cooperation from numerous credit unions and the outstanding leadership of HCFCU, we were able to get $22 million directly into the hands of small businesses islandwide Through the Holomua Grant Program, we kept many businesses from shutting down temporarily, laying off employees, and ultimately closing their doors for good. This was just one shining example of the County, private sector, and the Community coming together, in times of hardship and uncertainty, to accomplish a common goal of providing lasting relief to the heart and soul of our local economy.
    "We also knew that if we were truly committed to a sustainable Hawaiʻi Island, where our keiki can all thrive and succeed – here, then we would have to make sure that they were able to keep the roofs above their head and food on their tables In total, we spent $13,992,616 in emergency rental assistance, supporting 1,866 local families experiencing housing uncertainty We are expecting to spend an additional $4,926,571 in rental assistance by the beginning of summer, for a cumulative total of $18,919,187 in
See the video of Mayor Mitch Roth delivering the State of the County
rental relief for our working class And we didn’t stop there It’s not enough to just assist with rent; we needed to make sure that we helped our residents with managing their finances so that their families can flourish beyond monetary assistance programs And so we established Financial empowerment centers in partnership with the national nonprofit Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA), and Hawaiʻi First Federal Credit Union (HFFCU) to offer free professional, one-on-one financial counseling and coaching as a public service to residents. "These centers helped hundreds of residents 18 and older to manage their finances, pay down debt, increase savings, establish and build credit, and access safe and affordable mainstream banking products Another example of great partnership in an effort to build a sustainable future for Hawaiʻi Island.
    "However, housing goes so much beyond just being able to rent We need places for our local families to buy, and furthermore for them to be able to afford. That said, when we took office, there were 1,243 affordable housing units in the pipeline; meaning that they are either in the conceptual, planning, or construction phase Today, there are 5,509 total affordable housing units in the pipeline In just over a year, through the leadership of our Office of Housing and Community Development, we have added an additional 4,266 affordable housing units, making up 35 active projects in the pipeline 292 of which we expect to complete by the end of the year.
    "We have always said that sustainability to us is creating an island where our keiki and their keiki can thrive, and ensuring they have a place to live is one way we are committed to ensuring that can happen However, we cannot get houses built if we cannot fix our current building permitting process And we are proud to say that since taking office, we have been aggressively tackling the process and, after a year, are finally beginning to see the results of our efforts. That said, we understand that there is a tremendous
amount of frustration and discontent related to the EPIC system or the Electronic Processing and Information Center that was inherited and implemented when we came into office.
    "The tribulations of the transition from paper to paperless were felt severely on both sides – for the users and the administrators. We knew we had to make the transition quickly, much like ripping off a band-aid, and that’s what we did. We set an aggressive timeline for implementation and, within seven months, successfully converted the system over. The transformation was painful, but it was a learning experience that our administration took in stride. As a measure of where we are versus where we were, we can look at the average of building permits issued month by month In 2020, before our administration took office, an average of 269.75 permits were issued a month In 2021 with the implementation of EPIC and a two-month delay in processes, we eventually were able to up the status quo to 296 permits a month. So far this year, we are averaging 529 permits issued a month, nearly doubling the status quo.
    "If we can maintain the current momentum, we will be able to issue over 7,000 permits this year alone, beating the average of roughly 3,500 permits per year in the two years prior.
    "Let me be clear – we are not where we want to be yet But we have made considerable progress, and we will continue to push the envelope We are committed to it, our staff is committed to it, and we will make it happen In the meantime, we would like to send our sincerest appreciation for your continued patience as our staff works day-in and day-out to remove red tape and make government more accessible, more transparent, and more “for the people” than it has been in the past With that, it is not only about the volume of permits, but the time in which our residents have to wait for them And by the end of 2022, it is our hope that we will see no more than a 6-week wait time in permit review, response, and issuance It’s an aggressive goal, but one that our residents deserve Again, this is about creating a sustainable Hawaiʻi Island, and that means one where our families can build a place to call home for generations to come – all while supporting the blue-collar, working-class in the building trades and supply industries."
    See more of the Mayor's State of the County in Friday's Kaʻū News Briefs. Also see the video of
Roth delivering the State of the County at facebook.com/HIMayorMitch.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see www.facebook.com/kaucalendar/. See latest print edition at www.kaucalendar.com. See upcoming events at https://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2022/03/upcoming-events-for-kau-and-volcano.html

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