Bill to establish a nine-member Lele Community District Board for burned Lahaina lands heads to decision making

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Lahaina harbor. PC: DLNR Hawaiʻi (8.11.23)

*Update: The Senate Judiciary Committee deferred action on SB3381 SD1 until Friday, March 1 at 9:56 a.m.

A bill that seeks to establish a nine-member Lele Community District Board to facilitate rebuilding decisions for the post-wildfire Lahaina area of West Maui, is scheduled for key committee decision making on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 3381 SD1 will be heard at 10 a.m. before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which will decide on the future of the measure.

While the measure puts key decision making in the hands of elected Lahaina community members, some opposed to the bill worry that establishing a new authority under the department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s Hawaiʻi Community Development Authority lacks precedent and raises concerns about centralizing power away from the affected community.


The legislation has already drawn passionate testimony from both those in support of and against the measure.

One testifier wrote: “Each individual resident of Lahaina should have their voice heard towards any decision about the rebuild of Lahaina. A roadmap of success should be laid out and voted on by majority of Lahaina residents.”

A letter of opposition was submitted by Lahaina Strong leaders Jordan Ruidas, Courtney Lazo and Pa’ele Kiakona who outlined a list of seven reasons they are agains the bill. The first reason listed was “the proposal to place the control of all lands in the Lahaina moku under a state entity raises concerns about the centralization of power and potential disenfranchisement of local stakeholders.”

Lahaina resident Jackie Keefe was among those who testified in support saying: “Some of us in the community recognize the urgency of the moment to get these Lahaina protection bills passed, but we still need the time to come together to discuss the bill. We recognize the need for discourse around these bills, as it is much easier for people to outright support or oppose bills than it is to take the time to reflect, discuss, and collaborate on how we would like to influence them as a community.”


Senator Angus McKelvey of West Maui, who is one of two lawmakers who introduced the measure said it is important to give the community control over state assets and funding for projects in the rebuilding of Lahaina.

“Establishing a community authority could allow for vision-based zoning and realignment of planning and permitting to community standards. Direct community control over whether our harbors, schools, and state facilities are rebuilt is crucial for empowering Lahaina in its critical feat,” Sen. McKelvey said in an email communication to Maui Now.

He is hopeful that the committee will listen to the community’s concerns that have been raised during outreach sessions and hearings.

“People are realizing the benefits of self-governance linked to state funds, but there are worries about unintended consequences insofar as pausing current initiatives. The community is also concerned about the condemnation and eminent domain powers of the new authority, despite the County already having these powers and planning to use them.  I hope people will balance their concerns of what may or may not happen in the future against the result that this is happening now,” said Sen. McKelvey.


Under the bill, the Lele Community District would be made up of the Lahaina moku, which comprises 29 ahupuaʻa, as noted in the State of Hawaiʻi geographical information system database.

According to the measure, the board’s actions shall result in a community that: “Reflects the values, aspirations and goals of residents; includes a significant number of affordable homes; encourages a thriving, sustainable business sector that includes tourism; and restores community assets, including schools, parks, gathering places and ocean-based recreation.”

If the bill advances after the hearing, it will go to the floor for a final vote. Should it pass the floor vote, the bill will then cross over to the House of Representatives. Given this scenario, McKelvey said, the House would likely assign it to several committees where, if it is approved, it would be returned to the Senate. The Senate may accept the House’s changes to the bill or negotiate on the final form in conference before sending it to the Governor.

If the bill does not advance, Sen. McKelvey said there may be consideration to form a working group via resolution for further discussion during the off-session. “Alternatively, the legislature may allow the discussion to happen naturally during the summer. They might then consider another measure next year, though this is unlikely due to its connection to state funding for the Lahaina rebuild,” he said.    

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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