County has Launiupoko plot

A 148-acre lot – the first of two Launiupoko parcels totaling 186 acres that was part of a contentious debate in the County Council over their purchase – was officially acquired by Maui County on Monday, according to a county news release Tuesday.

The deal for the land with Makila Land Co. LLC was recorded Monday for $9.9 million, of which $6.5 million came from the Open Space Fund and the rest from general obligation funds. The parcel is identified as Lot 7 of the Launiupoko Subdivision, TMK: (2) 4-7-001-030.

The remaining 38-acre parcel, for which the county will pay $3.1 million, is pending final subdivision approval, according to the news release. The parcel, identified as Lot 12 of the Makila Ranches Subdivision – Phase 2, is set for escrow closing by March 2016.

“This land acquisition is extremely important in that it sends a message to future generations on the importance of preserving open space,” Mayor Alan Arakawa said in a statement. “I’m grateful that the purchase was approved in the nick of time, and that our community can now benefit from having this land remain undeveloped in perpetuity.”

The Maui County Council voted unanimously to approve the land purchase in the last council meeting of last year, just in time to meet the landowners’ Dec. 31 deadline. The council’s Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White had argued that the appraisal process used to assess the value of the land had been “significantly flawed,” and that two subsequent appraisals ordered by his committee both came back under $10 million.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, however, dozens of community members testified in favor of the land deal, arguing that the land is “priceless” and needed to be kept free from development.

The council voted on second and final reading to approve the land deal early this year.