The Special Management Area, or SMA, is the area of the island that is in close proximity to the shoreline. In establishing the SMA in 1975, the Hawai‘i state legislature found that
“it is the state policy to preserve, protect, and where possible, to restore the natural resources of the coastal zone of Hawai‘i,”
and, therefore, that
“special controls on developments within an area along the shoreline are necessary to avoid permanent losses of valuable resources and the foreclosure of management options, and to ensure that adequate access, by dedication or other means, to public owned or used beaches, recreation areas, and natural reserves is provided.” (Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, Chapter 205A, Part II)
To learn more about the Special Management Area and the SMA permitting process, you may wish to view this informational video, as provided by the State Office of Planning.
Is my property in the SMA?
The actual distance that the Special Management Area extends inland may vary from place to place, but the area has been delineated on a map of each island. A mapping tool has been created by the State Office of Planning to guide the public in determining if their property might be subject to SMA regulations. If you are uncertain, please contact the Hawai‘i County Planning Department East Hawai‘i Office at (808) 961-8288 or West Hawai‘i Office at (808) 323-4770.
Is my property subject to the shoreline setback?
Shoreline setbacks are typically established early in the permitting process, often, though not always, during SMA review. Pursuant to Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Section 205A-43(a) and Planning Department Rule 11-5, all lots which abut the shoreline shall have a minimum shoreline setback of 40 feet.
SMA Assessment and Use Permits
The Planning Department shall assess all uses, activities or operations proposed in the SMA. Any activity defined as “development,” pursuant to Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Section 205A -22, will require an SMA (Minor or Major) Use Permit. The following application forms are available for your use:
- Special Management Area Use Permit Assessment Application
- Special Management Area Use Permit Application
- Shoreline Setback Variance Application. Shoreline Setback Variance applications are also subject to decision of the Planning Commissions and may be sought when it is necessary for a structure to be closer to the shoreline than normally allowed.
- Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 205A Coastal Zone Management. (This link takes you to the State of Hawai‘i website.)
- Planning Commission Rules, Rule 9. The Windward and Leeward Planning Commissions of Hawai‘i County have the authority to grant or deny SMA Use Permits. Rule 9 of the Planning Commission Rules guides their decisions.
- Planning Commission Rules, Rule 8. The Windward and Leeward Planning Commissions of Hawai‘i County may grant Shoreline Setback Variances. Rule 8 of the Planning Commission Rules guides their decisions.
- Planning Department Rules, Rule 11. The County establishes and enforces the shoreline setback as per Planning Department Rule 11.
Please feel free to contact the Hilo Planning Department, at (808) 961-8288, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding the Special Management Area.