By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
It’s taken 16 years, but Charles Collins, the owner of the derisively-named “House of Cards,” has filed for a building permit for his ramshackle three-story home in Kalapana Seaview Estates.
Collins, a Vietnam War veteran and retired businessman, has been at odds with Hawaii County since 1997 when he was first issued a notice of violation for starting construction of the unpermitted structure. By then he had only submitted a permit for a 272-square-foot storage shed that doesn’t appear to have been built.
To the annoyance of some of his neighbors, he continued to add rooms and floors over the years without county approval, enlarging what one nearby resident called a growing “eyesore.”
“We were kind of beside ourselves,” said neighbor Jack Hash when he found out a permit application had been submitted.
The permit application was filed last month, said David Yamamoto, county Public Works building division chief, adding that it is currently under review.
The submission appears to coincide with an injunction from Third Circuit Court prohibiting Collins from continuing construction without a permit.
For years, Collins has dismissed the county’s efforts to get him to come into compliance, frustrating neighbors who felt the county wasn’t doing enough to hold him accountable. The county fined him $50 in November 2011 and later took him to court.
That fine went unpaid and has grown at a rate of $50 a day since.
As of July 31, 2012, court records show the fine had reached $12,450.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Kimberly Angay, who is now handling the case, didn’t have the updated figure on hand, but it could have reached as high as $33,000. The parcel is assessed at about $50,000.
The permit application Collins submitted has been approved by the county Planning Department, responsible for ensuring the proposal meets zoning requirements, but was rejected by the state Health Department on Tuesday for not meeting requirements regarding cesspools.
Yamamoto said Collins, who couldn’t be reached for comment, is seeking to get the building permitted without having to be torn down.
“Basically, if it meets code we are inclined to approve it,” he said.
Whether it is possible to bring the structure into compliance remains to be seen, Yamamoto said.
“We didn’t finish our review,” he said.
Hash said he is doubtful that can happen.
“It was built crooked to begin with,” he said. “How do you fix something like that?”
The structure does appear to resemble a large tree house rather than a home, with a mishmash of materials used, including a pallet for what appears to be flooring.
If a permit is approved, Hash said it would send the wrong message to property owners.
“For the building division to even consider accepting that, it’s almost like saying, ‘OK, this is the new system. Just take out permit for a storage shed and build whatever you want,’” he said.
“If that’s the new message, we should get building permit fees refunded.”
Yamamoto said the goal is to bring property owners into compliance.
If approved, Yamamoto and Angay said it would not affect the court case and fines that are still accumulating.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.