PAIA - After years of political wrangling and legal machinations, the Maui County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve disposing of the controversial "Montana Beach" home on the north side of Baldwin Beach Park.
The resolution's vote was 7-0 (Council Members Joe Pontanilla and Elle Cochran were absent and excused from the regular meeting) after the council's Policy Committee recommended removing the boarded-up structures at 3045 Hana Highway.
The once-luxurious beachfront house has stood vacant for more than a decade, although its hardwood construction makes it still appear solid - not accounting for an interior stripped bare of fixtures and plumbing and a hot tub filled with sand.
A “Keep Out” sign warns people away from a decade-old structure near Baldwin Beach on Tuesday.
The Maui News / CHRIS HAMILTON photo
"Me and (former County Council Member) Jo Anne Johnson (Winer) fought for years to take it away because (it)?was just never supposed to be there; nothing is," said Council Member Bob Carroll.
"It's been a long time coming for it to become public space again," he said. "We're very, very happy that we've gotten to this point."
While the council approved disposing of the structure, Carroll's aide, Morris Haole, said the council will likely have to also approve the final cost of removing the buildings.
The Finance Department will issue a request for proposals for the salvage and demolition project, Council Member Don Couch said.
The structures total 2,500 square feet and were built in 2001 on property set aside for open space.
Residents quickly started complaining.
Former Department of Planning Director John Min granted the owners a waiver for a special management area permit. But Min later withdrew the permit after the fact, saying the Montana Beach project did need an SMA permit.
The issue then winded through state and federal courts for six years. The lawsuits eventually ended with a $4.1 million taxpayer-paid settlement.
In June, there was an effort to auction off the buildings, which county officials said are full of valuable exotic hardwoods as well as slate and marble flooring. Even after a decade of neglect, Montana Beach's main structures stand straight and sturdy, but it's also boarded up, with graffiti marring the structure.
Department of Finance Director Danny Agsalog said his department will immediately explore options with Mayor Alan Arakawa's office to dispose of the eyesore but cut the cost by letting the contractor have the materials of value.
The county has a special management area permit to dispose of the Montana Beach house and is in the process of getting another permit for the salvage and demolition, county spokesman Rod Antone said.
"I think it's a stupid solution," said resident Shawn Hallan as he sat on the beach near the home. "They should fix it up to be used for Native Hawaiians or other families."
Antone reiterated that homes aren't allowed there, and the county had no one interested in hauling it away.
Hallan's friend, Shawn Weatherford, who owns Weatherford Floors, said the county "shafted" the owner and got what it deserved.
"A whole lot of good work went into nothing," Weatherford said.
The best solution is for the county to get what it can for the materials, knock down the rest and let nature move in, he said.
Antone agreed with Weatherford's latter comments. The house is near Baldwin Beach's popular pavilion, and the family-friendly beach needs more space.
Agsalog said the home remains a county liability, too.
Couch said he was pleased the controversial issue has been put to rest. It should be gone within a year or sooner, he and others said.
"And we'll have a nice beach park area back," Couch said.
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at email@example.com.