Launiupoko parcel’s new appraisal is approved

WAILUKU – With one council member calling the appraisal “significantly flawed,” the Maui County Council on Friday approved a new appraisal for 186 acres in Launiupoko that Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration has negotiated to purchase for $13 million.

Council Member Mike White, who has criticized the administration’s appraisal process, said that he, too, wants to preserve open space but wanted another opinion on the value of the property. He said Friday’s action Launiupoko on the appraisal was not a debate on whether the council favors open space or not.

“In voting, (council members) are getting an accurate estimate value,” White said.

He said the council is obligated to make sure county funds are spent appropriately.

In the administration’s appraisal used to negotiate the price, White disputed giving value to parcels that the developers/owners of the site called “nondevelopable.” The value should have been zero for those parcels, he said.

The Arakawa administration in information distributed this week countered that the so-called nondevelopable greenway lots in the seller’s subdivision map have agricultural zoning. The zoning would allow for farm dwellings and other permitted uses on the land, administration officials said, and that these uses were accounted for in the county’s appraisal.

Even as the resolution passed 6-2 with Don Couch and Don Guzman voting against and Riki Hokama absent and excused, some council members sought assurances that they would have an opportunity to vote on the land purchase – even if the appraisal were not completed in time.

The county has a Dec. 31 deadline to make a decision on the land purchase. Officials from landowner Makila Land Co. have said that the deadline and price were firm.

Council Vice Chairman Robert Carroll said that he has requested that Chairwoman Gladys Baisa put the Launiupoko land purchase on the agenda of the full council meeting on Dec. 6, regardless of the status of the appraisal. This will allow enough time for the council to vote on the purchase before the deadline.

He said that the vote will show Maui County “what we support and what we stand for.”

Council Member Mike Victorino shared Carroll’s sentiments and cited missed opportunities for land purchases in the past that are regretted today.

“I’m not going to let this priceless opportunity go away,” he said. “We are not going to get this chance again.”

Couch, who has been consistently voting no on the new appraisal, said he didn’t want to spend $10,000 on a new study if there was a chance of it not being completed in time to meet the seller’s deadline.

Baisa said that she and her staff have been working with the appraiser and are confident the appraiser can produce the appraisal by Nov. 27.

Guzman said his opposition was symbolically meant to show the landowners that the doors are still open for negotiation no matter how the appraisal turns out. He acknowledged that the council does not have the power to negotiate land purchases.

The council previously authorized a reappraisal by ACM, the company that conducted the initial appraisal used by the administration in negotiating the deal. The problem with the reappraisal is that ACM has said that its work will be done within 90 days from a contract signing, which would be past the Dec. 31 deadline.

The county administration has contended that its appraisal has been professionally done, and that county officials have negotiated the price down from the owner’s initial offering of $16 million.

In letters to council members, the seller has said that a new appraisal “will not make a difference in the negotiations” and may even jeopardize the transaction, according to administration officials.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at