Getting old can be tough. Apparently the idea that 70 is the new 50 doesn’t apply to buildings. Let me explain. A couple of years ago, Act 228, aka The Historic Preservation Act created new requirements for owners seeking to alter or demolish any structure 50 or more years old. Passed in July 08, the law required that owners submit archival quality photos to the State Historic Division of the Dept of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) prior to the issuance of, for example a demolition permit. Without a demolition permit, a new building permit could not be obtained by an owner who intended to remove an older structure.
We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when the law was repealed because archival quality photos (whatever that meant) were required even if the building was your typical Hilo single family residence. Age triggered the requirement. The law was well intentioned following demolition of several Oahu landmarks. Guess what, although Act 228 is history, owners are still required obtain the “blessing” of the State Historic Preservation Division before the County of Hawaii Building Division will issue a demolition or alteration permit. The basic difference is that archival photos are no longer required. Prior to applying for a permit, four photos of the property (one from each side) along with a floor plan and property information must be submitted. The process is now less cumbersome and, in fact, everything can be done via email. The State has 30 days to act on the request.
The purpose of the review is to provide a careful double-check which will insure historically significant structures do not go the way of the wrecking ball without meaningful photo documentation. The role of the State Historic Division in this regard is not only to catalog photos but to assess historical significance and recommend if a preservation plan or public condemnation (buying the property for public good) is appropriate. Remember, DLNR is a State agency. Building permits are issued by the county. It takes up to 6 weeks to obtain a building permit from the County. Owners /buyers may need additional processing time for their sales or development plans to be processed. Owners must submit documentation at their expense. The law applies not only to homes but to commercial buildings, public buildings and warehouses. For Sellers, it’s adds an additional layer of disclosure. Sellers with “vintage” homes are well advised to apply for a determination in advance. Property condition is not considered in the determination requirement. In other words, even if the structure is falling down, the requirement to submit to DNLR still exists. Of course, there’s a huge group of us out there that really don’t understand all the fuss. We firmly believe that 50 is way too young to be old! As for me…. I’m still hoping that the folks who say that 70 is the new 50 have it right cause, guess what, just like Jack Benny, I’m still only 39!
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