Categorized | Environment, Government, News

Planning Committee seeks input on P.U.D. bills

Roya Sabri | Hawaii 24/7 Reporter

At the County Council Planning Committee meeting on July 9, committee chairman Zendo Kern, proposed to postpone a vote on two bills — 59 and 291 — concerning approval procedure for Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.) sites.

After eight testimonies from Kona and one from Hilo, committee members decided to give themselves more time to decide on the bills, particularly with a new face in the Planning Director’s seat, Duane Kanuha.

Council members agreed Kanuha should have an opportunity to make comments and suggestions on the bills.

The committee had company in its uncertainty. Testimonies showed a unified sentiment toward the current P.U.D. approval process with mixed judgment of proposed procedures.

An application for a P.U.D. asks for variances in conventional lot sizes and setbacks to create a mixed-use plan that meets site-specific social and environmental needs. In theory, it allows developers to conceive well-planned sites that fit their context.

In the current P.U.D. approval process, the Planning Department works directly with applicants. The Planning Director approves applications based on criteria that include “consistency with the general plan” and “harmony with the surrounding area.”

However testifiers expressed doubt and distrust of the process, often asking for more “transparency” with the public about decisions related to P.U.D.s.

In Mary Kay McInnis’s testimony, she spoke of a P.U.D. development connected to Hualalai Road that took advantage of the ability to create smaller lots but was approved with disregard for external costs to ecology, traffic and overall character of the scenic Hualalai Road.

Former council member Pete Hoffmann introduced Bill 291 to solve the problems associated with the current closed system. Former Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd drafted Bill 59 in response.

Both bills identify the same purpose for P.U.D.s. They expand the objective from simply allowing developers more flexibility in their development to expecting and requiring a “high standard” of ecological and social infrastructure.

Both add a component of public participation that is missing in the current county code — something that a testifier and Urban Design professor said is integral to any planning practice today. “We should be grateful that so many people came out to speak today,” he said.

Bill 291 also increases the rigor of achieving P.U.D. approval.

It replaces the current code’s requirement of “drawings and plans” that describe only general information about the site with “a preliminary site plan” that includes “natural, historic and cultural features.”

After receipt of application, the director would forward the application with his recommendation and supplementary materials to the Planning Commission within 120 days. The council would reject, modify, approve or impose conditions upon the application.

Several testifiers said they were pleased with this solution because it requires at least one public hearing in the district in which the P.U.D. is located.

The inclusion of public participation in Bill 59 is less involved.

The Planning Department would set up a public meeting. The applicant would then notify owners and lessees of record of all lots within 500 feet of any point of the perimeter boundary for agricultural zones, within 1,000 feet — or within two contiguous lots in each direction — for an application asking for change of zone and within 300 feet in other cases.

“At the community meeting,” the bill states, “the applicant shall clearly explain the difference in developing the property pursuant to the provisions of the zoning and subdivision versus the deviations and variances proposed in the P.U.D. application.”

The result of the meeting would be a document handed from the developer to the Planning Department with a list of attendees, a copy of the presentation material, and a “description of community concerns and proposed mitigation measures to these concerns.”

The bill places the responsibility of applying community feedback in the applicant’s hands and asks him to make “a good faith effort to address community concerns by incorporating reasonable changes into the general development plan submitted with the P.U.D. application.”

The developer would have the power to consider comments from the public — or not.

A few testifiers expressed doubt about the influence the public would have in these meetings.

Others, including Ken Melrose —member of the Kona Community Development Plan Action Committee — were satisfied with its procedure.

Most had more trust in elected officials who have responsibility to their constituents than in the decisions of developers.

Voting on the bills will take place at Kern’s call. After the vote, the committee will send the bills with their recommendation to full County Council.

To find the bills:…


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