WAILUKU - The Maui County Council on Friday may have ruined the county's opportunity to purchase 186 acres in Launiupoko for a long-envisioned coastline parkway by failing to take a vote on the deal as an end-of-the-month deadline loomed.
Property owners Makila Land Co. had set a firm deadline of Dec. 31 for the county to make a decision on whether to buy the West Maui properties for $13 million. Some council members, including Budget and Finance Chairman Mike White, were concerned about the price and the initial appraisal on the land. White called the appraisals "flawed," citing high values placed on "undevelopable lands."
A reappraisal of the land put its value at $9.4 million, and a new appraisal received this week valued the 186 acres at $6.6 million.
This aerial photo shows a portion of the 186-acres of Launiupoko land that the County Council is currently considering for purchase.
Some council members, including White, wanted to further examine the appraisals in committee, rather than pull the measure out of committee for a ratification vote by the full council Friday.
White's faction prevailed by one vote. Five votes were required to move the measure out of committee and it received four votes in favor - Chairwoman Gladys Baisa and Council Members Don Couch, Don Guzman and Robert Carroll. Those voting against were White and Council Members Stacy Crivello and Elle Cochran.
Council members Mike Victorino and Riki Hokama were absent and excused.
With council members unable to pull the measure out of committee Friday, it seems unlikely - but not impossible - for the panel to make the deadline because of Sunshine Law requirements on posting times for meetings and the difficulty of gathering a quorum around the holidays.
The council has only one more scheduled full council meeting this month. The land purchase must be approved by the full council twice.
"There is no question it's disappointing," said Steve Goodfellow, one of partners in Makila Land Co., following the vote. "To me, the real loser is the County of Maui, it's the whole community."
Asked if the group would extend the deadline, Goodfellow, who has only spoken to several members of the partnership, did not offer a favorable response.
"I don't think they want to go into another round of negotiations," he said. "I don't think the support is there to continue this."
Goodfellow added that the possibility of condemnation of the land, raised at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, also was "disheartening" and may have hit a nerve with partners, who bargained in "good faith" and designed a subdivision and made changes to accommodate the park.
But the partners are still under contract to let the county decide by the end of the month, he said.
"If the council can figure out a way to approve this purchase by December 31, Maui is going to have one of the most spectacular parks in many parts of the world," Goodfellow said.
David Raatz, director of council services, said after the meeting that the purchase is still alive in the County Council and more than likely will be on the council's Dec. 20 agenda as unfinished business. Members voted against filing the measure Friday, which has kept it alive.
At the next meeting, the council could again vote to take the bill out of the Budget and Finance Committee and, if successful, could move on to vote on the purchase of the property, Raatz said.
In order for the council to approve the purchase a second time prior to the deadline, a special council meeting could be called, he added. The meeting could be called by Mayor Alan Arakawa, a majority of the council members or by council Vice Chairman Carroll.
Council Chairwoman Baisa will be off island at the next meeting.
Scheduling may be a problem, though, because a quorum needs to be present, which may be difficult with the holidays.
White said that he favors Arakawa's vision for a west side parkway, but felt council members needed to review the appraisals recently received to have a better understanding of the value of the property.
Crivello said she wasn't against the acquisition, just that the more committee work was needed.
Cochran, who holds the West Maui residency seat, said she, too, wanted time to "iron out the numbers." She said she would "call the bluff" of the sellers and would not support the motion to discharge the measure out of committee at this time.
Couch, who in the past had tried to get a vote on the purchase in the Budget and Finance Committee, pushed for a vote by the full council.
"The question that is before us is $13 million, 'yes' or 'no,' '' he said.
"We got all the facts" with the two recent appraisals, Couch said, adding that he thought the vote was proper especially with the deadline.
"I'm not willing to gamble away the future," he added.
Carroll, who asked Baisa to put the purchase on Friday's agenda, said "the public deserves to see us vote." He added that a vote could have been taken in committee, but White adjourned the meeting.
"Don't hold this hostage in the committee or in the council," Carroll said.
The Arakawa administration and Makila Land Co. have agreed on a sale price of $13 million that includes infrastructure to be put in by the landowner, including moving the existing roadway mauka and installing waterlines.
Goodfellow and owners' representatives have said Makila has extended the closing deadline several times and has maintained the land for more than a year at its cost while waiting for the County Council to make a decision.
White said Friday that the committee itself held up the process when members delayed a vote on new appraisals first suggested in September. He also has blamed the Arakawa administration for not being more forthcoming with information regarding appraisals done prior to the agreement.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.