Proposal may end Montana Beach saga

The saga of the troubled Montana Beach house is continuing, but perhaps there’s an end in sight.

In August, there was reason to hope that the last chapter would be written when the Maui County Council unanimously approved disposing of the once-luxurious oceanfront home on the Paia side of Baldwin Beach Park with the county retaining ownership of the property. In September, the Department of Finance issued a request for proposals to remove the home and salvage its building materials.

The request included an “upset price” of $60,000, meaning that was the lowest price the county was willing to accept. There were no takers.

“We got no registered bidders,” said Guy Hironaka, the Finance Department’s property manager.

What the county did get was a separate proposal from Realtor Michelle Del Rosario, owner of Maui & Co. Real Estate LLC.

The exact details of Del Rosario’s proposal are unavailable because her submittal is a “sealed bid” and won’t be released publicly until the county has a signed agreement, said county spokesman Rod Antone, after he checked last week with the Department of the Corporation Counsel.

As of Feb. 26, there was no signed contract, and the matter remained with county attorneys for review, although they may finish work on the matter by Friday, Antone said.

Although the monetary terms were not released, Del Rosario said the proposal involves student labor from the University of Hawaii Maui College’s Sustainable Construction and Technology Program. She called the idea of student internships a “value-added component” of the project.

“I will provide an opportunity for students in the sustainable construction program to participate in the deconstruction process,” she said.

The Maui News attempts to reach Sustainable Construction and Technology Program Director Carlton Atay have been unsuccessful with email and voice mail messages left late last week.

Del Rosario’s proposal is attractive because it would help the county get rid of the Montana Beach house structure and would give students “hands-on” work experience, Hironaka said.

County officials have wanted to salvage as much of the building materials as possible and not have them go to the Central Maui Landfill, Hironaka said. People who have looked at the building – constructed with African mahogany, a valuable, high-quality wood – have determined that “not that much is salvageable,” Hironaka said, because it was built in a tongue-and-groove fashion.

“There’s no nails,” he said. “Everything just kind of fits together.”

With the lack of interest from others, the county is pursuing Del Rosario’s proposal, he said.

Del Rosario said that in its current condition the home is “not worth $60,000” because of the cost of demolishing it.

When asked what Del Rosario would pay for the project and salvaging of the home’s materials, Hironaka declined to provide the specific figure, although he called it a “very nominal amount.”

The county’s aim is to recover enough money to cover the county’s costs of processing permits for the home’s demolition as well as making the building safe as a project work area, he said.

That includes hiring a pest exterminator to get rid of dozens of bee and wasp hives that cling under the home’s eaves. The property is under the management of the Department of Parks and Recreation, which is expected to take the lead in hiring the pest exterminator, Hironaka said.

Del Rosario said she’s a member of the Hawaii chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, and she has “a strong interest in deconstruction and reuse (salvage) of buildings and materials, both modern and historic.”

Her company’s role in the Montana Beach project would be as project facilitator, she said.

“The County of Maui is not paying me or my company,” she said. “My proposal is to purchase the structures on-site and deconstruct them. The structures will not be moved or reused ‘intact’ but will be deconstructed into the individual source materials.”

The county has done preliminary work by removing overgrown grass and tree fronds that “created a bed of green waste and possible slip-and-fall hazard for future workers,” she said. “Additional steps will require eradication of bees/wasps from the structure.”

An inspection of the property last week found at least two dozen wasp and bee hives attached to walls and under eaves.

A Maui Community Correctional Center detail went to the property to remove overgrown grass and green waste “because it was creating a nesting area for rats,” Del Rosario said.

The site also has “a lot of vandalism,” she said. “The property’s being destroyed little by little.”

Del Rosario said she has had an agreement from the county since November to go ahead with her proposal. Now, she said she’s waiting for paperwork to be executed.

The Montana Beach house has a long, costly and controversial history. The 2,500-square-foot structure is actually three structures connected by walkways. It was built in 2001 on a site designated as open space.

When public objections surfaced, then Department of Planning Director John Min withdrew a waiver of a special management area permit. He determined the property did need an SMA permit. That led to state and federal lawsuits that resulted in a ruling that the county’s initial SMA waiver was in violation of state coastal zone laws.

In 2008, the county ended a six-year lawsuit by purchasing a final empty lot on the Montana Beach property as part of a $4.1 million settlement – the final piece of the acquisition that earlier included the structure and the land underneath it through settlements involving those owners.

A 2001 appraisal described the beach house as having high-end materials and workmanship, including mahogany wood, slate and marble flooring, teakwood vaulted ceilings, a Jacuzzi tub, central air conditioning, and mango and koa wood kitchen cabinetry.

Hospice Maui considered moving the building to its Wailuku location to convert it into offices, but that plan didn’t pan out. The county also has considered demolishing the structure or keeping it in place as a community center or meeting facility.

* Brian Perry can be reached at