During Wednesday night’s Honolulu mayoral debate, former Gov. Ben Cayetano stated that Pearl City-area homeowners can’t build additions to their homes because of the five-year sewage moratorium that was enacted in April.

“You can’t develop or build a new home in Pearl City, the Pearl City area, because there’s a five-year moratorium,” Cayetano said. “You can’t even put in an addition to your own home if you have additional people living with you. This is not only the Pearl City area, it’s also the case in Moiliili, McCully and many, many places throughout the city.”

He was responding to a question about how to make the state of Hawaii more business-friendly, considering that Hawaii was ranked the second-to-worst state for business in a recent CNBC report. Cayetano said that Honolulu needs to prioritize improving its infrastructure.

But in fact, there is no blanket ban on development in the Pearl City. As Civil Beat reported on June 20, the so-called sewer moratorium in West Honolulu is not actually a moratorium.

Tim Steinberger, director of the Honolulu Department of Environmental Services, told Civil Beat that new developments in that area are being reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis. It is possible to build a new addition to your house or construct a large development, provided you receive approval.

Furthermore, according to Markus Owens at the Department of Environmental Services, there are no moratoriums in Moiliili and McCully.

“There are no moratoriums blanketing an entire community except for the Pearl City moratorium,” Owens said. But there are, however, “a number of places throughout the islands where we have restrictions,” he said.

He clarified that the Pearl City moratorium still allows development on an individual basis.

To be fair, given that the city itself uses the term “moratorium” to describe what is not actually a moratorium, it’s no surprise that there is some confusion. In April, Steinberger sent a memo to the Honolulu City Council stating, “No NEW sewer connections will be allowed from Halawa to Pearl City.” Media reports further fueled the perception that the “moratorium” constitutes a complete ban on development.

But according to the Department of Environmental Services, sewer connections are being permitted on an individual basis.

BOTTOM LINE: Cayetano’s sweeping assertions that you cannot build a house or make an addition to your house in Pearl City are inaccurate because the Department of Environmental Services reviews applications for development on a case-by-case basis. But given the presence of development restrictions in certain parts of the island, and the city’s use of the term “moratorium” to describe the situation in the Pearl City area, Civil Beat finds Cayetano’s statement to be HALF TRUE.

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