Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Proposed Bill (HB1965) Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

In its testimony submitted Jan 26, 2010, Historic Hawaii Foundation (HHF) supports the intent of House Bill HB1965, which would require an archaeology inventory survey prior to the sale of undeveloped land.  However, with so many unanswered questions, HHF recommends deferring the bill and directing the Hawaii State Division of Land and Natural Resources to review best practices and make recommendations for implementation next year.


To: Rep. Angus L.K. McKelvey, Chair
Rep. Isaac W. Choy, Vice Chair
Committee on Economic Revitalization, Business & Military Affairs

From: Kiersten Faulkner
Executive Director, Historic Hawai‘i Foundation
Committee Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2010
8:30 am
Conference Room 312

Subject: HB1965, Relating to Preservation

On behalf of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation (HHF), I am writing with comments about HB1965, which requires an archaeology inventory survey prior to the sale or offer of sale or long-term lease of any undeveloped property in the state.

Since 1974, Historic Hawai‘i Foundation has been a statewide leader for historic preservation. HHF’s 850 members and numerous additional supporters work to preserve Hawai‘i’s unique architectural and cultural heritage and believe that historic preservation is an important element in the present and future quality of life, economic viability and environmental sustainability of the state.

Historic Hawai‘i Foundation supports the intent of the bill, which appears to be an attempt to improve the process to identify and disclose the presence of potentially significant historic and cultural sites in a timely way, in order to allow the planning and development process to provide for their protection, and to provide for consumer protection by ensuring that property owners are informed about historic preservation responsibilities and restrictions. A process that provides for the discovery, documentation, evaluation and preservation of significant historic properties is in the best interest of all stakeholders, including property owners, developers, and the greater community. Providing for better knowledge of potential sites early in the planning process would help eliminate conflicts and misunderstandings prior to significant investment of time and money.

However, it is unclear how the new requirement to conduct an archaeology inventory survey at the time of sale or lease would be integrated with other planning and permitting functions of the state and county governments. The state historic preservation division (SHPD) already has a mandate to conduct historic surveys and inventories; the county governments should also be including that level of analysis in their general plans and community development plans. Both SHPD and county permitting departments are supposed to require and review archaeology inventory surveys (AIS) prior to issuing grubbing and grading permits. The bill appears either to add another level of analysis and review, or to shift the responsibility to the time of sale rather than the time of planning and/or development.

HHF strongly supports all efforts to identify and protect significant historic properties, and to have full disclosure of the rights and responsibilities that come with ownership and management of historic properties. However, the mechanism offered by the bill raises several questions. Will the AIS be repeated each time the property changes hands or will the initial survey be sufficient? Will the AIS be repeated at the time of planning, development and permitting or does it replace that later review? If SHPD’s recommendations for preservation and/or reclassification are not implemented, what is the remedy? How will these recommendations be integrated with other community plans and land use codes? How will the information be made available? How will the measure be enforced and which agency will carry out enforcement?

HHF is also concerned that the state historic preservation division would be charged with another mandate without commensurate staffing and financial support, and that the new mandate would be layered onto existing duties without being fully aligned or integrated with them. We believe that a comprehensive review of the state’s historic preservation program, including the management and regulatory structure, is necessary. Rather than address these issues ad hoc, we would like to see a thoughtful and deliberate approach that includes recommendations for planning, regulations, incentives, education, integration with federal and county processes, and use of best practices in the preservation industry.

Therefore, HHF recommends that HB1965 be deferred, and that the legislature direct the department of land and natural resources to convene a review of best practices and models for good preservation systems that can be implemented comprehensively, with recommendations to be submitted to the legislature next year.