Maui County issues first rebuilding permit for wildfire survivors


Rich and Kari Alexander received their permit Wednesday to rebuild their property that was destroyed in the wildfires. It is the first permit the Maui County Recovery Permit Center has issued since opening three weeks ago.

The Maui County Recovery Permit Center, which opened three weeks ago to facilitate permitting for August wildfire survivors, has issued its first building permit to a Lahaina couple to rebuild their destroyed home.

West Maui residents Rich and Kari Alexander received the permit Wednesday to allow them to rebuild on their property on Komo Mai Street.


“Our kids are coming home from their first year of college at the end of the month, and my kids ask every time I talk to them, ‘Is anything changed? What’s going on?’” Kari said in a Maui County news release. “Today, we’ll be able to tell them that we have our permits to start building. I think this gives them a sense of security that we’re staying here, we’re rebuilding and we want to give back to our community.”

Rich was one of the first residents to go to the center when it opened April 29. The center is a partnership between Maui County and 4LEAF, a vendor procured by the county to assist with permit processing “specifically for the wildfires,” Maui County Department of Public Works Director Jordan Molina said when the center’s opening date was first announced at a Lahaina community meeting last month.

The Maui County Development Services Administration launched a streamlined process for Disaster Recovery Building Permits, which is necessary for “alterations, repairs, reconstruction and new construction of structures,” according to the Maui Recovers website.

At the end of February, the Maui County Council unanimously passed Bill 21, which expedites rebuilding in Lahaina and created a special class of permits specific to wildfire recovery building.

The bill consolidated electrical, plumbing, grading and driveway permits into one application for emergency permit applications. It also created a 15-day approval period for areas affected by wildfires, and deferred permitting fees until the structure’s final inspection.

The Aug. 8 Maui wildfires killed at least 101 people and destroyed or damaged almost 3,000 structures. Of the 4,500 households displaced by the fires, between 13% and 20% belonged to homeowners, according to the county.

The Alexanders said in the news release that they felt “overwhelmed by the application process” for the permit, but that they got assistance from 4LEAF associate planner and code enforcement officer Shaina Hipolito. Rich went to the permit center three times in one day to get help from Hipolito.

“To see them actually hold their permit in their hand is unexplainable,” Hipolito said in the news release. “I try not to get emotional about it.”

For the Alexanders, the rebuilding process is happening faster than expected, with Rich saying he thought it would take years for them to rebuild on their property. Now, their goal is to have their house completed before their rental lease expires in eight months.

“It’s going to be tough. We just have to keep plugging along,” Kari said. “It’s possible. We were just steadfast. We knew right after the fire that we wanted to rebuild.”

The Recovery Permit Center, inside the Maui County Service Center in Kahului, is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. A satellite office is being set up at the Lahaina Gateway Center.

The Recovery Permit Center can be reached at 808-270-5724. More information on permits can be found at

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