The county has called a halt to filling citizen boards that advise the government on planning and design because the administration said it wants to take a hard look at how the boards can best be used.
The Community Development Plan action committees and the Kailua Village Design Commission will continue with holdover members, but vacancies won’t be filled, Planning Director Zendo Kern said Friday. He anticipates the pause for the CDP committees to continue three to six months.
The Kailua Village Design Commission has a less certain future.
“It’s a commission that we need to get into and look at areas for efficiencies and work toward implementing any type of efficiencies,” Kern said.
He pointed to delays as long as three years to get design plans approved by the commission.
The commission, within the Kailua Village Special District, provides an architectural and design review of applications requiring plan approval and all planned public and private improvements and makes recommendations to the Planning Director. It also reviews sign permits and variance applications and makes recommendations to the Director of the Department of Public Works.
“There’s also some conversations going on about if it’s worth pursuing continuing this commission,” Pomaikai Bartolome, an executive assistant for Mayor Mitch Roth, told the County Council Planning Committee last week. “I don’t want to place anyone on a committee or commission if we’re not certain if that commission or committee is something that we want to continue.”
Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas called the comments “incredibly concerning.”
“The Kailua Village Design Commission was a stopgap in our town to make sure developers took into consideration the very special and unique community which is Kailua-Kona,” Villegas said.
Kern praised Roth’s office for moving quickly to fill positions on the county’s many commissions and boards. He emphasized that the directive to hold off filling the CDP action committees and the design commission came from him, not the mayor’s office.
Both the CDP action committees and the Kailua Village Design Commission are set in county law, so any substantial changes would require a bill through the County Council.
The CDP action committees, described as community-based stewards of the community development plan to guide, promote and ensure plan implementation and updates, are undergoing a “pivot,” Kern said.
The island’s six regional action committees implement the CDPs that direct physical development and public improvements and may contain detailed land use and zoning guide maps, plans for roadways, parks, other infrastructure and public facilities, planning for watersheds and natural resources and any other land use matters relating to the planning area.
“We’re hoping within the next three months or so there will be clear direction and then we’ll fill the positions with the folks that will be the most appropriate,” Kern said.
Planning Committee Chairwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz wasn’t worried the citizens groups would be left by the wayside.
“They’re taking a moment to pause and re-calibrate how we engage (the) community in implementing the community development plan,” Kierkiewicz said.
Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball said she’s been in touch with the Planning Department because the Hamakua CDP action committee is eager to get to work. She told the council she’s confident the committees will be able to do their work.
The Hamakua committee, the newest on the island, was created in late 2019. Priorities include the region’s deteriorating bridges, open space preservation, creating new trails and getting feedback on capital improvement projects.
“I have very active members in our action committee,” Kimball said. “It’s meant to be sort of this networking capacity to help inform the community about the actions that are taken.”