WAILUKU - The Maui County Council will order a revised appraisal for Launiupoko land that the county administration wants to purchase for $13 million for open space and park use.
Some council members said they were concerned about "red flags" arising from questions raised by Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White. He maintains the current appraisal on the property appears to be "fundamentally flawed."
On Friday, the council approved a resolution seeking a revised appraisal from the consultants that handled the original property valuation.
Council Member Don Guzman said he was concerned about the county administration placing its own conditions on the appraisal, which was submitted in November.
"That puts up red flags that need to be clarified," Guzman said.
White urged the council to get a revised appraisal, saying that undevelopable lands had been valued too high and have a total price of at least several million dollars.
The council has a responsibility to safeguard taxpayer money, he said.
A revised appraisal will probably cost less than $5,000, which was the amount spent on the original one, he added.
The measure passed 7 to 2. Voting in favor of the resolution were Council Members Stacy Crivello, Elle Cochran, Riki Hokama, Mike Victorino, Gladys Baisa, Guzman and White. Those voting no were Don Couch and Robert Carroll.
Department of Finance Director Danny Agsalog was the county's chief negotiator for the proposed Launiupoko land deal with landowner Makila Land Co. LLC.
"I still think ($13 million is) the best deal we can have in preserving for the future of our children in that area in Launiupoko," he said.
Agsalog added he didn't know where the council was going with the revised appraisal and took issue with the current valuation being called flawed. It was professionally done, he said.
"It's nice to say that 'oh, we are going to get the (best) bang of our tax dollars,' but sometimes let (the administration) negotiate for the county," said Agsalog, who did not attend the meeting but later heard about the council's actions. "If they do not like what we negotiated, they can vote up or down. Let's see what happens then. To question what we have (negotiated); that's a little bit too much for me."
During the meeting, Couch said he agreed with White, saying a revised appraisal might be something to look at.
But he said he was concerned about the Dec. 31 deadline for the administration to act on the proposed land deal. If an appraisal is ordered, it will add more time and steps to the process before the council eventually votes on whether to purchase the lands, he said.
Couch reiterated his position that the proposal is "basically a 'yes' or 'no'" question.
If the appraisal comes in at $16 million, Couch said the offer to sell it at $13 million will likely be taken off the table.
He also read a portion of previous testimony by a representative of the partner landowners that said: "The majority interest in the partnership has agreed not to modify our agreement with the county, and no additional price or time concessions will be made."
Carroll, who voted against the resolution, said he was voting "no" not on the merits of the resolution, but because he believed the discussion about the matter should take place in committee and not during a full council meeting.
The measure to get a revised appraisal passed just several days after a contentious Budget and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday. In that meeting, Couch had wanted the panel to recommend passage of a measure to authorize the $13 million purchase of 186 acres at Launiupoko from Makila Land.
At the meeting, Couch wanted committee members to vote on the matter and not delay it with another appraisal. After consulting with council staff, White ruled Couch's motion out of order because the measure was not under consideration at the committee meeting Tuesday.
In a straw vote, committee members voted 6-2 against the county doing a second and new appraisal on the Launiupoko lands. White abruptly adjourned the meeting, cutting off further discussion of the issue.
White did not tell committee members why he adjourned the meeting, but his office said later that the conversation was dragging out and by adjourning the meeting the matters before the panel were deferred.
The straw vote was nonbinding, but on Friday White did not bring up a new appraisal for consideration for the full council. White instead pursued passing the resolution for a revised appraisal.
The proposed land deal was forwarded to the County Council earlier this year. It recommends acquiring 148 acres from the northern edge of the former Olowalu Landfill to Launiupoko Beach Park and 37 acres from Launiupoko to Puamana Beach Park.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.