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Bill Introduced to Crack Down on Hawai‘i Building, Zoning Violations

February 8, 2018, 11:52 AM HST
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Hawai‘i House lawmakers Speaker Emeritus Calvin Say and Rep. Lei Learmont have introduced two bills to crack down on building and zoning violations.

The first bill, HB 2525, would add obstructing or knowingly making a false statement to a county inspector a crime within the offense of unsworn falsification to authorities.

The second bill, HB 2212, establishes the offense of obstructing real property zoning enforcement operations and makes it a class C felony, rather than the misdemeanor of unsworn falsification to authorities.

“The most frustrating thing about dealing with zoning issues such as illegal vacation rentals is the difficulty in enforcement,” said Speaker Emeritus Calvin Say (St. Louis Heights, Pālolo, Maunalani Heights, Wilhelmina Rise, Kaimuki). “It has become hard to get accurate information. The purpose of these bills is to make enforcement easier by encouraging witnesses to provide truthful evidence.

“I would also like to see the collected fines go to the city and county so that they are able to staff the positions that would enforce the law.”

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Complaints concerning building and zoning violations, from illegal vacation rentals to “monster” homes, are some of the most common complaints to government and at community meetings. Many of these activities are already illegal, but enforcement is difficult. By expressly making lying to county inspectors a crime and increasing the penalties for doing so compared to other categories of falsification, these bills seek to give legal support to inspectors and insist that property owners be truthful about their activities.

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“Residents of Hawai‘i are very concerned about “monster” homes and illegal vacation rentals that change the character of our communities and often violate county housing ordinances,” said Rep. Learmont (Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley). “This measure will give county officials another tool to enforce the law.”

Sen. Stanley Chang has also introduced companion bills in the Senate, SB 2092 and SB 2722, to support the issue.

“The real issue when it comes to our land use laws is enforcement. Often, landowners just lie to inspectors because the penalties for doing so are so minor or unlikely,” said Sen. Chang. “We hope the criminal penalties in these bills will make landowners take their compliance with the law seriously.”

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HB 2212 will be heard at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, before the Water and Land Committee in Conference Room 325 at the State Capitol, 415 Beretania St., in Honolulu.

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