A Maui County Council committee today signaled that the county should move toward acquiring by eminent domain a large Nāpili house deemed a monstrosity by neighbors.
Owned by developer Greg Brown, the eight-bedroom, 45-foot-tall house at 5385 Lower Honoapiʻilani Road drew strong community opposition over its height and its intended short-term rental use.
Saying the move is a step toward closure, the council’s Government, Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee voted 8-0 today to recommend a resolution authorizing the county’s acquisition of the home for public purposes, such as a Hawaiian cultural education building or other public facility. The resolution now heads to the full council.
“I see this now as taking a step closer toward closure on this, for lack of a better term, neighborhood eyesore,” Mike Molina, committee chairman, said ahead of the vote. “This is a step where we can potentially make lemonade out of lemons.”
Brown over many months of debate has maintained that he followed all county rules and that the structure is legal.
After the committee vote today, Brown’s lawyer, Jeffrey Ueoka, said the owner is open to working with the county.
“Mr. Brown is open to working with the county on reaching a reasonable resolution,” he said.
Approving agencies, the county’s Public Works and Planning departments, have come under fire for allowing the home’s construction without public input. A separate council resolution seeks to investigate how permits and approvals were granted.
The resolution to acquire the property was introduced by Council Member Tamara Patlin, whose residency seat covers West Maui, but further action rests with the administration. Resolutions do not carry the force and the effect of law.
“Ultimately, everything is kind of in the hands of the administration,” Paltin said during the meeting. “That’s how we got here. We don’t approve permits; we don’t do all of that. Everything we do in regards to this property, we don’t control, we can’t compel to happen.”
“We are in the situation where our options are limited,” she added. “Somebody else has to act on whatever else we do.”
When asked if Mayor Michael Victorino would pursue acquisition, he said it’s too soon to tell.
“While I can understand the committee’s decision, I think it is premature because the full financial impact of initiating such proceedings needs to be weighed against other priorities, such as affordable housing,” the mayor said in a statement this afternoon.
Council Chairperson Alice Lee, who motioned to recommend the resolution’s adoption, said it would make economic sense to turn the house into a four-unit rental for workforce housing in perpetuity so the county can make back money it invests.
Lee and Molina said that acquiring the property can be an example for future developments.
“This has been a huge mistake and blame can be spread around very widely, probably even the council — everybody,” Lee said. “Now is the time to look for a reasonable solution.”
“The solution seems to be once and for all to have the county control this property so we don’t have any more issues with misinterpretations or people taking advantage of laws that are not strict enough,” she added.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Keola Whittaker said that if the county takes action, the next step would be for a title report and appraisal for the price of the property.
The property was on the market in 2021 for $12.85 million. It was purchased in 2017 by the current owner for $1.2 million, according to the county. Real Property Assessment Division has the land value listed as $1.275 million.