Historic or just old: post-statehood tract homes hit 50

Published On: Aug 05 2013 06:20:00 PM HST

Homes at least fifty years old  in Hawaii are considered "historic" under a federal definition, and that could pose problems.

HONOLULU -

Fifty-three thousand homes across Oahu hit the 50-year mark last year.

With that comes 53,000 questions. Is that house historically significant, or just old?

The big 5-0 triggers a review by the troubled state historic preservation division where insiders say thousands of permits sit in the hands of now just two people.

"There are some things right now that we are reviewing that maybe we shouldn't or we don’t have to," said state land director William Aila.

The big 5-0 could mean trouble if you had a fire, and want to renovate.

That could also be the case if you want to put photovoltaic panels on your home, or if you want to put in a handicapped ramp.

You could get caught in a nightmare of a review.

The head of the city’s planning and permitting department calls them "horror stories."

"If we have to send everything over to SHPD, they are already overwhelmed. It will be problematic and we can see it coming," said city director George Atta.

"They are looking at everything that is old not everything that is historic," said Kiersten Faulkner of the Historic Hawaii  Foundation.

You could see a six-month wait or longer for something simple whether you are in a Hicks’ home in Kaneohe and Kailua or other post-statehood tract homes.

"Those homes are now reaching the 50-year mark. The Hawaii Kai's the Enchanted Lake's and Millilani's.  They are all coming of age in the 50-year mark, so the sheer numbers are increasing," Atta said.

"Because they are doing it case by case one at a time instead of doing it in a systematic way, unnecessary properties get caught in this bureaucracy," said Faulkner.

This has apparently  become enough of an issue that a special task force is meeting for the first time this week to decide what to do going forward.

Faulkner calls the meeting of lawyers, architects, archeologists and planners triage.

And you could be the next patient.

"This task force has the potential of working together rather than the state blaming the city, the city blaming the state and the property owner getting caught in the middle,” Faulkner said.

That first task force meeting takes place Friday.

The question is how long will take be before we see some action.

Both the city and state are short-staffed.

On the up side, just this summer there was some agreement that electrical meters and internal electrical work did not need the state historic review.

The city gets applications for some 32,000 permits every year, and half are solar-related.

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