Big Island

West Hawaii Planning Commission Meets

Today was the long-awaited first meeting of the West Hawaii Planning Commission. Until this year, all decisions regarding issues such as zoning variances and subdivision applications were handled by a single commission. If you’ve spent a day driving the circumference of the Big Island, you realize that the East (Hilo) side of the island has a very different character from the West (Kona/Kohala) side with its high end resorts and the rapid growth of Kailua Kona from sleepy town into population center. Voters last year approved the idea of splitting the commission so that commissioners could be appointed who were more familiar with the nuances of the districts, communities and planning issues on each half of the Island.

If you are buying a Big Island resort condominium property, or an in-town residence, the county code and zoning and planning regulations probably are not of particular interest. Here, however, are some situations I’ve recently encountered with clients that would require thorough understanding and investigation of zoning and planning rules and processes:

  • a prospective buyer started looking at agricultural-zoned parcels larger than they needed, wondering if they could subdivide and sell off the rest of the acreage
  • a buyer looking for a large home on acreage with the dream of hosting weddings as a business
  • a buyer who discovered when they received all the information on the acreage in escrow that the entire oceanfront subdivision had been surveyed at the outset for cultural resources and those crumbling rock walls they found so attractive would require special consideration in design of their house and driveway
  • buyers looking at a foreclosure property in North Kohala built in an era before permitting processes began, and wondering what that would mean for appraisal and renovation of the property
  • buyers considering an oceanfront land parcel trying to understand subdivision approval requirements regarding public access, and what “special management area” and “conservation district” would mean for their construction and landscaping dreams
  • a friend who painstakingly restored some historic buildings on her property and is now spending a ton of money getting them permitted after the fact and applying for a special permit to use them as she had planned.

Some online resources include the County of Hawaii Zoning Code, Subdivision, and Planning Rules and the County Property Tax website where you can not only find current property tax rates on any property, you can also look up the status of building permits associated with the address.

It is extremely important for buyers to do their own due diligence with respect to a property they purchase. A knowledgeable agent can assist you in understanding what you should be looking for and where to find answers to your questions.

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