Fast-tracking Development after Wildfires is Harmful to our Communities

Our island community needs to step forward to protect victims and wildfire survivors, for their immediate short-term needs, as well as their long-term needs such as rebuilding.  While Fire victims are still grieving and traumatized, they may be vulnerable to predatory real estate deals.  After the wildfires, there was an immediate surge in interest in property sales from Real Estate speculators. And Developers are using the tragedy to coerce the governor to fast-track approval of existing developments outside Lahaina. 

If we do not protect the Lahaina survivors now then many of them may be forced to leave the island as they will be unhoused, unemployed, and financially devastated.

  • Many fire victims could be underinsured and may be persuaded to take cash offers for their land rather than rebuild.
  • In addition to real estate speculators, the developers are also trying to cash in on this disaster by leveraging the disaster to acquire fast-tracked permits for their pending developments. These are mostly previously proposed developments that were going through the permitting process. These are not new projects proposed in response to this crisis.   
  • At a recent meeting with the governor, the developers are lobbying to get fast-track permits for housing developments outside and unrelated to Lahaina. Rather than rebuilding Lahaina, they want Fast Track permits so they can build their housing projects in other areas and ostensibly “offer them to victims”. That is the spin they are putting on their narrative. This is a blatant and shameful way to exploit this disaster, for the self-serving interests of real estate developers. 
  • We should all be focusing on how to assist the victims of the fires to rebuild their communities and rebuild their homes in their original locations.
  • Lahaina is a town with historical and cultural importance and a long historical community, and a sense of place.
  • To arbitrarily move Lahaina residents to other parts of the island would be detrimental to the community in and around Lahaina.
  • If you wanted to fast-track something, we could fast-track rebuilding/restoring Historical sites. You could also fast-track, rebuilding residential homes in Lahaina back to their original configuration. For the purpose of rehousing the original residents. 
  • However, if someone wants to increase their home size, or rebuild it for resale, then they should go through the normal permitting process.  
  • The Lahaina Community must be consulted and participate in any talks on how best to rebuild Lahaina Town. 
  • Any talks of rebuilding should also consider risk mitigation, and disaster-proofing the town, to prevent similar catastrophes from happening in the future. 
  • In particular, the water supply system needs to be fireproofed, with fire hydrants being on a gravity-fed system that is not susceptible to power outages. 
  • A rebuilding plan should also consider better evacuation routes, better ingress and egress for emergency vehicles, and a revision of early warning systems. And the increase of Fire Services available to the community. 
  • And creating a strengthened fire code that calls for better fire-retardant materials to be used in the rebuilding.  


Fast-tracking Developments comes at a High Cost:

Usually fast-tracking any development, even a Housing Development, comes at the expense of the environment or the community. Fast-tracking usually undercuts the Island Plan, the Community Plan, the Zoning laws, SMA laws, Coastal management rules, Archeological protection, Cultural protections, and Safety guidelines such as Fire codes. 


The Proper Permitting Process: 

The proper permitting process ensures that all of the safeguards and protections that the community has created over the years are properly considered before the building or rebuilding of any structure is approved. This is the Pono and Akamai way. 


Say No to “Fast-track” Developers: 

Fast-tracking any developments invariably causes long-term problems for our community and our neighborhoods.

Damage in the harbor of Lahaina on the island of Maui following a devastating wildfire, via the U.S. Coast Guard
Damage in the harbor of Lahaina on the island of Maui following a devastating wildfire, via the U.S. Coast Guard