Extend duration of permits for temporary structures in Lahaina burn zone area

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Maui County Council Water and Infrastructure Committee on June 6, 2024.

June 6, 2024, 9 a.m.
Council Chamber, Kalana O Maui Building

To: Maui County Council, Water and Infrastructure Committee
      Tom Cook, Chair
      Yuki Lei Sugimura, Vice-Chair

From: Jonathan Helton, Policy Researcher
           Grassroot Institute of Hawaii


Aloha Chair Cook, Vice-Chair Sugimura and members of the Committee,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer support for and an amendment to Bill 87 (2024), which would allow temporary structures constructed in the Lahaina burn zone to be permitted for up to five years, instead of the current 180-day time limit for temporary structures permits.

This bill could be helpful for anyone seeking to build a temporary home, business or relief-focused building on a lot they own in Lahaina. The measure recognizes that rebuilding will continue to be a time-consuming process and that many owners might not be cleared to completely rebuild for some time.

One concern is that the bill would not apply to temporary structures built outside the burn zone that are vital for housing and providing relief resources to those displaced by the fires. The Committee should consider adding language that would apply this five-year permit to those structures as well.

The following italicized language could serve as a starting point: “except temporary structures in Lahaina within the burn zone of the August 2023 wildfires, or any temporary structure outside the burn zone that is used to provide housing or resources to individuals affected by the wildfires, must be permitted for up to five years from the date of this ordinance.”

This language would provide more certainty to owners of temporary housing and relief structures, who now must receive permits under Mayor Richard Bissen’s emergency orders, the most recent of which requires that any structures with temporary permits must cease use in 90 days and be removed 180 days after the order expires.[1]

The uncertainty in this order could discourage potential builders of temporary housing from going forward with their projects, since they do not know for how long those projects would be legal.

Grassroot would welcome additional dialogue on this bill.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Jonathan Helton
Policy Researcher
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

[1]Eighth Emergency Proclamation Relating to Wildfires,” Mayor Richard Bissen, April 12, 2024, p. 4.

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