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Thursday, August 24, 2023
Do Lahaina Property Owners Have the Right to Rebuild?
By Andrew Walden @ 8:26 PM :: 8252 Views :: Maui County, Development

by Andrew Walden

When it comes to the Lahaina Fire zone there is no shortage of ‘plans’ for what property owners can and cannot do with their property.

All of these erstwhile ‘planners’ swear they are trying to prevent an exodus of Lahaina survivors to the Mainland.

But Hawaii’s history is irrefutable--all efforts at ‘planning’ produce a decade or two of inaction while warring factions duke it out in court.  ‘Planning’ thereby guarantees the exodus the ‘planners’ purport to avoid.

Lahaina property owners don’t need a ‘plan.’  They need the right to rebuild what they lost. 

The Lahaina burn area is almost entirely small house lots and commercial properties.  Maui County Emergency Management reports 2,207 structures damaged in the fire with 86% residential and 9% commercial.  The historic 34 room Pioneer Inn and the 14 room Plantation Inn are the only hotels reported burned.

As individual lot owners get to work rebuilding, it becomes increasingly difficult to assemble large parcels to build new marble and brass mega resorts.  Thus, a rights-based rebuild is the best guarantor of Lahaina’s future.

Governor Josh Green first mooted a ‘moratorium’ and then announced that Lahaina rebuild would be the sole focus of his Housing Emergency Task Force for the next 60 days while intoning: “it’s going to be a very long time before any growth or housing can be built.”

Fire-scarred Sonoma County, California has a different idea. 

The Sonoma County building permits division website contains the following Q & A:

Q -- Can my house be rebuilt if it is destroyed by fire or flood?

A -- Yes, any legal dwelling unit destroyed by fire or flood can be rebuilt.

Can Green’s ‘Housing Emergency Task Force’ go on record making the same statement?

Can Maui County?

We asked the Maui Mayor’s office and the Maui County Building Permits Division.  Here is their response:

“As of right now, we do not have any process put into place.  We are hoping to hear back from our administration on what the procedure will be.” -- Janna Wong, Building Permits Division, County of Maui.

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