Not dead yet — Couch of $13M deal to buy coastline

Some Maui County Council members were still optimistic Monday about the full council taking a vote on a deal to purchase 186 acres in Launiupoko for $13 million for a coastline parkway in West Maui.

“It’s not dead yet,” said Council Member Don Couch of the vote and possible purchase.

Still, Couch recognized that getting two approvals from the full council before a Dec. 31 deadline for the deal is “slim,” noting that some members at Friday’s council meeting called the effort a “Hail Mary,” a last-ditch desperation move.

It was at that meeting where proponents of a vote on the merits of the sale fell a vote shy of pulling the measure out of the Budget and Finance Committee. Needing five votes, the effort failed 4-3 with Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White and Council Members Elle Cochran and Stacy Crivello voting no.

Council Members Mike Victorino and Riki Hokama were absent and excused.

In order for the “Hail Mary” to be successful at the next meeting Dec. 20, proponents of the effort likely will have to change the minds of either White, Cochran or Crivello.

The math is simple: Proponent Victorino will return for the vote Dec. 20, but Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa, who voted to pull the measure out of committee, will not. She is on vacation.

Hokama likely will attend the meeting. He could not be reached for comment. Other council members were not sure how Hokama would vote.

So it appears that some minds must be changed if a vote on the deal, negotiated by Alan Arakawa’s administration and land owner Makila Land Co., will be had.

White has questioned the value of the land and the appraisals done as part of the negotiations that led to the $13 million deal. He got the council to authorize new appraisals, with one valuing the 186 acres at $9.4 million and the other at $6.6 million.

The values of those new appraisals apparently played a role in the no votes by Cochran, who wanted to call the developers’ “bluff” on the deadline, and Crivello, who said that she supported the land purchase but wanted the committee to finish its work of reviewing the purchase agreement.

White’s office said Monday that the appraisals likely will be discussed at the committee’s Dec. 18 meeting, two days before the full council meeting. Whether such committee discussions would be enough to sway Crivello to change her vote was not clear.

“I’m not saying for sure. I’m not sure what is going to be brought up,” she said of the committee meeting.

“I believe the committee should be allowed to finish it (the discussions) up. I’m not against the acquisition,” said the councilor who holds the Molokai residency seat.

Crivello, Cochran and White will be lobbied to change their vote by Council Members Victorino and Couch.

Victorino said that he will be speaking one on one with each of the members, urging them to at least allow a vote on the $13 million deal to be fair to the landowners and to let the community know where they each stand on the purchase.

He said he didn’t want any council member using the excuse that the land deal was tied up in committee.

Victorino also did not want to speculate about possible swing votes.

Couch also said that he likely would be speaking to members about the purchase and planned to speak to the landowners today.

Representatives of Makila Land Co. have emphasized that their Dec. 31 deadline is firm and have indicated recently that they do not have an interest in negotiating with the county again on the land sale. They have expressed displeasure with talk about condemnation of the property and have said that the deal has been extended several times at their expense.

A vote to get the land purchase out of committee would be the first step. The full council could then take a vote on buying the land.

A second vote would be necessary, and a special meeting would have to be called. That could be done by Council Vice Chairman Robert Carroll in Baisa’s absence, Arakawa or a vote of the council.

Carroll indicated Monday that if the council voted to pull the measure out of committee and in favor of the measure on Dec. 20, the landowners might see it as good faith and allow the purchase to be heard at the council’s next full meeting in January.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at