State Agency Proposes to Exclude Minor Projects from Review Process
In October, the State Historic Preservation Division proposed a list of projects that have no potential to affect historic properties and that would no longer be subject to review and comment by the agency, if and when the exclusion list is finalized.
Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS) §6E-42 requires that before any State agency or officer of the State, including its political subdivisions (such as the county governments or the Hawai‘i Community Development Authority), approves any project involving a permit, license, certificate, land use change, subdivision or other entitlement for use “which may affect historic property,” it shall refer the matter to the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) for review and comment on “the effect of the proposed project on historic properties.”
The referral applies to any property over 50 years old (§6E-2). SHPD’s review then establishes:
- Whether the property has historic significance and integrity that would make it eligible for the state register of historic places, and
- Whether the proposed project has the potential to “affect” the property, and specifically if it would have an adverse effect or inflict harm on the property’s historic integrity or character-defining features.
The purpose of the review process is to help ensure the preservation and appropriate use of historic properties, and to provide opportunities for correction should a proposed action be found to inflict irreversible harm.
This is consistent with the constitution of the State of Hawai‘i, which recognizes the value of conserving and developing the historic and cultural property within the State for the public good, and the public interest to engage in a comprehensive program of historic preservation at all levels of government to promote the use and conservation of such property for the education, inspiration, pleasure and enrichment of its citizens. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is mandated by Hawaii Revised Statutes “to provide leadership in preserving, restoring, and maintaining historic and cultural property…”
In order to meet this mandate and to ensure that the historic and cultural resources of Hawai‘i are treated appropriately, it is necessary to have a framework based on clear criteria to develop an effective, efficient, standardized and reliable system for review of projects which have the potential to harm or adversely affect historic resources.
SHPD and County planning and permitting departments have raised concerns with the workload on the state and county agencies in processing the review and compliance actions. Members of the development and construction industries have also voiced concerns over delays to projects, although the State’s analytics show that its reviews take less than a week on average.
Historic Hawai‘i Foundation is mindful of these concerns, and also notes that the overriding public policy should be to evaluate proposed changes not only for procedural efficiency, but also for effectiveness in protecting historic properties.
In response to these concerns, SHPD has proposed a list of categories of projects which have a low likelihood to affect the historic property’s integrity or character, and which it determines should not be referred to SHPD for review and comment. A similar approach, often referred to as “categorical exclusions,” has been used effectively in programmatic agreements with federal agencies in order to prioritize efforts on those undertakings with the greatest potential to harm historic properties, and to limit the amount of time, money and other resources that would otherwise be diverted to unnecessary reviews.
Proposed projects included such actions as:
- Installation of solar/PV/ photovoltaic systems on existing buildings, dwellings and carports
- Installation of electrical meters
- Interior electrical upgrades
- Interior renovations for mid- and high-rise buildings
- Antenna and satellite dish replacements on existing towers and structures not subject to FCC permits
- Bathroom and kitchen renovations
Historic Hawai‘i Foundation submitted formal written comments to the State in support of the approach, and agreed that it is a reasonable and responsible way to address the need to have a rational basis for eliminating review of projects that are unlikely to affect historic properties, while continuing to provide review and comment of more substantial work that could inflict harm.
HHF also submitted technical comments on the applicability, tracking, implementation, and definitions of terms, including additional standards and guidelines to ensure protection of character-defining features.