WAILUKU - West Maui state Rep. Angus McKelvey is hoping to pool state and federal funding to acquire Lipoa Point from landowner Maui Land & Pineapple Co. in an effort to preserve the coastal land in perpetuity.
On Monday, McKelvey asked a aui County Council committee to hold off on any growth boundary designations for the area while he works with other Maui legislators to bring stakeholders together, including the landowner.
"What I'm humbly here to ask you is for your support in just holding the line and not doing anything yet," McKelvey told the council's General Plan Committee.
Members of the Maui County Council’s General Plan Committee were asked Monday to take no action to designate Lipoa Point at Honolua Bay in West Maui. West Maui state Rep. Angus McKelvey said he’s hoping to obtain state and federal funding to purchase the property from Maui Land & Pineapple Co. to create a “living park.”
The Maui News file photo
He said that he envisions creating a trust entity to buy the lands and create a multiuse "living park."
"We have a chance to do a win-win here," McKelvey said.
The General Plan Committee is doing a final review this week of the so-called "directed growth plan" within the Maui Island Plan, which will guide future development over the next two decades.
The committee in August had considered a proposal that would have drawn a preservation/conservation boundary around Lipoa Point, which is currently classified as agricultural.
Council Member Mike White came under fire at the time for a motion he made to remove the preservation line after hearing from ML&P President Ryan Churchill. Churchill had testified that the land is being used as collateral for the company's employees pension fund. He cited concern that the land's value would drop if it were placed in preservation.
Les Potts, who identified himself as a caretaker in Honolua, testified Monday that he was concerned the county could get sued if it placed the lands in preservation. He called it "condemnation without compensation."
McKelvey said acquiring the land would not only preserve the area, but also help kupuna pensioners and prevent ML&P from having to sell off the land to private investors.
Council Member Elle Cochran, who holds the West Maui residency seat, asked McKelvey why he thought it was the state's responsibility to help pensioners of a private company.
"It is the state's kuleana to help out because the (state's) safety net will be strained if the pensioners are left hanging . . . The cost will be incurred one way or the other," he replied.
McKelvey acknowledged that Mayor Alan Arakawa is also negotiating at the county level to try to purchase Lipoa Point. That plan would require the nonprofit Save Honolua Coalition to fundraise $5 million to pitch in.
McKelvey referred to his collaborative state-federal proposal as a "Plan B" to the mayor's plan.
Tamara Paltin, president of the Save Honolua Coalition, asked the council to reconsider the preservation designation.
When she asked audience members in support of preservation of Lipoa Point to stand, approximately 30 people stood up.
"Although we have much love and respect for the pensioners, ultimately paying the pensioners is MLP's responsibility and not the county's," she testified. "The preservation designation is basically a strong statement that this area is not appropriate for housing or developments. . . . Who owns the land and what they intend to do with it has no bearing when it comes to an area where there's much significance to the world as Honolua."
Council Member Don Couch asked McKelvey what the difference would be to his plan if the council left the land as is versus placing it in preservation.
"It may set the dominoes falling before we have a chance to talk to everybody," McKelvey said. He noted that any plan would be contingent on working with the community.
After Monday's meeting, McKelvey said that an estimated purchase price was not yet available. But, he expects to know by January whether or not funding at the state and federal levels would be included in those respective budgets.
"There's no guarantees, but to not try would really be . . ." he said, trailing off.
Council Member Gladys Baisa, who chairs the General Plan Committee, asked members of the public to be patient through the process.
"It's really important that we have the outcome that you're talking about - we'd like to see the public and all of us own this in perpetuity," Baisa told McKelvey.
"I want to ask the public to be patient. We all have our eyes on the prize," she said. "We are all trying to do what is best. I think we all want the same thing; we want to preserve it. How we get there is the question."
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.