WAILUKU - The Maui County Council's Policy Committee unanimously recommended approval Tuesday of a resolution authorizing the county administration to sell off the once-luxurious "Montana Beach" house to the highest bidder.
The panel added an amendment directing the administration of Mayor Alan Arakawa to report the outcome of the auction sale back to the council. The resolution is expected to come before the full council for final action in July.
The beachfront house, formerly known as Montana Beach, has been vacant on the north side of Baldwin Beach Park for more than a decade. There are "Keep Out" signs, and windows are boarded up. Graffiti mars some walls in the deteriorating structure.
However, the home is made of African mahogany, a valuable, high-quality wood, said Department of Finance Director Danny Agsalog. And, the home's craftsmanship is exceptional, he added.
"Inside, it's beautiful," he said.
Following the committee meeting, Agsalog said that after the council takes final action on the resolution, it would take the county about four weeks to prepare to auction off the structure.
The successful bidder would be required to disassemble the structure and remove its concrete pad, he said.
Agsalog said that while the structure remains in place, the county risks the liability of people disregarding "Keep Out" signs and possibly getting hurt on the property.
"It's a liability sitting there," he said. "No security. No nothing. It's just boarded up."
County attempts to get a nonprofit to take the house away from the property were unsuccessful, Agsalog told council members.
That led to the formation of a county task force made up of the Mayor's Office and the departments of Finance and Parks and Recreation, he said. The task force eventually recommended selling the building at an auction.
The Montana Beach house has a long, costly and controversial history for Maui County. The 2,500-foot structure is actually two structures connected by a walkway. It was built in 2001 on a site designated as open space. When public objections surfaced, former Department of Planning Director John Min, who had granted a waiver for a special management area permit for the property, withdrew the waiver, determining that the property did need an SMA permit. That led to state and federal lawsuits resulting in a ruling that said 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 in a $4.1 million settlement. That came in addition to other settlements involving owners of the structures.
In 2001, an appraisal described the raised beach house as having high-end materials and workmanship, including mahogany, slate and marble flooring, teakwood vaulted ceilings, a Jacuzzi tub, central air conditioning, and mango and koa wood kitchen cabinetry. There also were separate guest rooms to the property.
Hospice Maui considered removing the building to its site in Wailuku to convert it into offices, but that plan didn't pan out. The county also has contemplated demolishing the structure or keeping it in place as a community center or meeting facility.
Committee members were told Tuesday that the county's aim is to sell the home's materials to try to recoup as much money as possible for taxpayers while having the structure removed from the beach at little or no expense.
Council Member Gladys Baisa said the issue has been "hanging around for a long time."
"I would like to see it resolved," she said.
The county administration already has applied for a special management area permit to demolish and remove the beach house.
In other action, committee members unanimously recommended approval of a number of the mayor's nominations to county panels, including:
- Douglas Rogers and Michael Jennings to the Molokai Planning Commission, replacing Debra Napua Kelly and Michelle Pescaia, for terms expiring in March 2017.
- Grace Shimabuku to the Salary Commission to fill the unexpired time of resigned commission member Pamela English, for a term expiring in March 2014.
- Autumn Arase to the Council on Aging, replacing resigned member Josiah Sutton, for an unexpired term ending in March 2016.
Panel members also voted with dissent to approve the mayor's appointments to the Lanai Community Plan Advisory Committee. The nominees to that panel include Jeofrey Baltero, Christine Costales, Deborah dela Cruz, Joseph Felipe, Reynold "Butch" Gima, Ernest Magaoay, Matthew Mano, Ron McOmber and Stanley Ruidas.
The nominees are expected to come before the full council in July.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com