May 17, 2024

First building permit from County Recovery Permit Center issued to Lahaina couple

The County of Maui Recovery Permit Center issued its first building permit Wednesday to a couple whose home in Lahaina was destroyed in the August 2023 wildfires.

Longtime West Maui residents Rich and Kari Alexander were handed their building permit at the center Wednesday morning by 4LEAF Associate Planner/Code Enforcement Officer Shaina Hipolito. The Alexanders will be rebuilding on their Komo Mai Street property.

Kari Alexander teared up as she and her husband explained what obtaining the permit meant to them.

“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 Alexander said. “So 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.”

“Just get back to normal . . . just looking forward,” Rich Alexander said, his voice cracking.

With his plans and other paperwork in hand, he was one of the first residents to stop by the center when it opened its doors on April 29 at the County of Maui Service Center in Kahului. The Alexanders said they felt overwhelmed by the application process, but Hipolito helped them navigate the Customer Self Service portal in MAPPS (Maui’s Automated Planning & Permitting System).

 “It was very rewarding to watch him from the beginning, not knowing where to start,” Hipolito said. “So the whole process was rewarding. They were the ones that would call me every day.

“To see them actually hold their permit in their hand is unexplainable, I try not to get emotional about it,” she added. 

The couple recalled when Rich Alexander came to the permit center three times in one day to get help from Hipolito. “She was so patient,” Rich Alexander said. “And she made it so easy.”

That communication is key, said 4LEAF Chief Building Official Nick Henderson. “Especially on our side, we want to make sure that they’re not being frustrated,” Henderson said. “We want to make sure that the process for them is simple.”

4LEAF Inc. has been contracted by the County to run the center, which opened less than three weeks ago to streamline permitting for owners seeking to rebuild in fire-impacted areas in Lahaina and Kula.

The company is processing Disaster Recovery Building Permits, which are for alterations, repairs, reconstruction and new construction of structures on parcels affected by a disaster or civil defense emergency. 4LEAF representatives are staffing the Recovery Permit Center to help guide residents through the expedited process.

Rich Alexander, who works in construction, said he thought it would take years to rebuild. But the Alexanders now say their goal is to have their house completed so they can move in by the time their rental lease expires in eight months.

“It’s going to be tough … we just have to keep plugging along,” Kari Alexander said. “We’ve made it through the first hurdle. I can’t thank 4LEAF enough, because without them I don’t know that we would have been able to expedite.”

For those in the process of applying for building permits, the advice from the Alexanders is to keep going.

“It’s possible,” Kari Alexander said. “We just were steadfast. We knew right after the fire that we wanted to rebuild.”

The couple attended weekly County of Maui Disaster Recovery Update meetings in Lahaina on Wednesday nights to get information.

“It’s coming true,” Rich Alexander said. “Here it is.”

Get Support at the Recovery Permit Center

The Recovery Permit Center is located inside the County of Maui Service Center at 110 ʻAlaʻihi St., Suite 207, Kahului, and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To contact the center, call (808) 270-5724. For more information on Disaster Recovery Building Permits and links to the dedicated portals, visit https://mapps.mauicounty.gov/DSA-DRBP or https://www.mauirecovers.org/housing.  

County of Maui Recovery Permit Center

A vital resource for those who are looking to rebuild in fire-affected areas in Lahaina and Kula as they navigate the permitting process and take the next step toward returning home.

County of Maui Service Center
110 Alaihi St., Suite 207

Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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