Resolution Passes to buy 186 Acres in Launiupoko for $13 MillionDecember 20, 2013, 5:07 PM HST · Updated December 23, 10:00 AM 0 Comments
By Wendy Osher
In a unanimous 8-0 vote this afternoon, the Maui County Council adopted a resolution to authorize the $13 million purchase of 186 acres at Launiupoko.
The 2.5-mile stretch of land from Olowalu to Puamana would be used as future park space.
The vote took place at the last council meeting of the year, and comes just ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline to close the deal with the seller.
“I drive pass this every day. I want to see it preserved; but I also want us to do it at a cost that is reasonable and acceptable to the people,” said Council Member Mike Whit, who chairs the council’s Budget and Finance Committee.
“I’m going to support this measure today because of the land purchase. My vote should not in any way be seen as a validation of the process that this acquisition, negotiation, and appraisal went through — because quite frankly, it in my view, it has been a disservice to the people of Maui,” said White, who said it was difficult to depend on appraisals due to the “wide variation on the valuations assigned to the non-developable lands.”
White noted that the final appraisal established the market value of the property at approximately $6.7 million–about half the price that the council is being asked to pay.
Council Member Elle Cochran, who represents the West Maui area said, “I believe at this point that I am listening to the people. Personally, I will hold whoever’s feet to the fire to see it through its fruition and to see it materialize in my lifetime.”
Cochran noted that the price tag does not stop at $13 million, but rather includes maintenance, labor, and interest to be paid for the next 20 years on borrowed funds. She said that come tax time, revenues will need to be generated some how.
Kahului Council Member Don Guzman said he too has some fiscal reservations, but said he would put them aside, “for the betterment of the community.”
As chair of the Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture, & Recreation Committee, he said, “I do understand the burden that we have on our park system.”
“I know that we have maintenance problems with our existing parks, and therefore, we are eventually going to have to ask for more money down the road, which means higher taxes for our taxpayers… I also have three children, and understand that open space is important to them and to the next generation,” said Guzman.
Council Member Michael Victorino called today’s vote a milestone, but said, “Procrastination has made us pay more. If we had we bought the 363 acres at $21.5 million, we would have paid less than $60,000 an acre.”
“Yes, taxes may have to be increased,” Victorino said, but offered another option for consideration saying, “maybe some user fees have to be looked upon these lands like they do at Hanauma Bay.”
“I’d like to see open space. I like driving through and not looking at mega-mansions and other things right smack-dab in front of me. I think this is a good first step to ensure open space, and hopefully connecting Ukumehame all the way to Puamana. Already we lost Olowalu, and some other sections; let’s not lose any more,” Victorino said.
Council Member Riki Hokama of Lānaʻi observed that many testifiers said this would be a great Christmas Present. “Well, like many Christmas shoppers, we buy a lot of things and really don’t know what we spend a month or so later you get the credit card bill,” he said.
“This is how I look at Launiupoko–it will be a great Christmas present for the community,” but, he said, come this budget session, “I believe we’re going to need to make some major tax structural adjustments and that’s how we’re going to have to pay the bill.”
“I’m being up-front with the community — we can provide, (but the bill) is going to have to be paid,” he said.
Council member Stacy Crivello of Molokaʻi also made reference to the holidays saying, “I have a Christmas wish that by some miracle we can have all 300 acres instead of just 186, but that’s just the Pollyanna in me.”
She also credited Cochran for voting based on service to her constituents, and offered some suggestions for land maintenance saying, options could include tenant farmers that could make use of the agricultural lands, or a partnership with some kind of trust.
Council Member Don Couch of South Maui asked that the same people who stood in strong support of the acquisition also provide similar support and backup if the county has to implement tax increases to pay for the purchase.
“If we disagree, sometimes better things come out. You don’t always have to agree,” said Couch. He continued saying, “It’s been a healthy discussion; it’s been an emotional discussion at times; but it’s been a very good discussion for this body.”
The motion passed with eight members voting yes with one member, Council Chair Gladys Baisa, excused. The meeting was run by Vice-Chair Robert Carroll of East Maui.