Posted at 8:48 a.m., Friday, November 16, 2007
Settlement offered in Maui condo property dispute
By HARRY EAGAR
The Maui News
The County Council Policy Committee learned the proposed terms in closed session Tuesday, then in open session deferred the matter without comment.
Meanwhile, the Mayor's Office confirmed that it is studying how to demolish the one building that was constructed on the beachfront lot in Paia.
However, the council would have to agree, and it has never decided what it wants to do with the now decaying and unused mansion.
The administration's statement to the council did not say it was definitely committed to razing the structure. The document sent to the council said that a staffer has been assigned to form a task force to devise a request for a proposal to remove the structure from the site that is intended to be a beach park.
Since the council acquired the condominium property in August 2005, there have been proposals to use it for some public purpose, such as an environmental education center under the administration of then-Mayor Alan Arakawa.
Mayor Charmaine Tavares has taken no action other than recommend eminent domain proceedings on the final third of the 5.7-acre condominium site.
In July, the council decided to authorize condemnation of the property. However, that was not the same as deciding to condemn.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Madelyn D'Enbeau said Tuesday that outside counsel hired to get an appraisal and devise a legal strategy to pursue condemnation is still working on the details.
If it goes to condemnation, the value of the remaining 2.9-acre unit would be determined by a jury. What that value might be is hard to say. Not many equivalent properties have been sold.
Once in, the county cannot back out if the appraisal were too rich for its taste.
On the other hand, owner Asghar Sadri lost a round in October, when 2nd Circuit Judge Shackley Raffetto affirmed a Maui Planning Commission decision to uphold former Planning Director John Min's withdrawal of SMA exemptions from the Montana Beach project.
That presumably put the county in a stronger position in settlement negotiations over the whole deal, which involves more than just Spreckelsville real estate.
In two lawsuits, Sadri also accused Min and other county officials of misconduct.
In his claims for damages, he counted not only the current value of the property but alleged lost income and property rights during the many years since the dispute arose.
The county has acquired the other two units in the three-unit condominium lot.
It began when the former Paia lime kiln was sold by Alexander and Baldwin to Kurt Ulmer. Ulmer divided the lot into three condominium units and the buyers of each unit were granted a plan review waiver process to obtain building permits.
Sadri put down a deposit to buy one unit.
Dennis and Dianne Holland bought another and had their house under construction when public objections arose to the development on a site designated in the community plan as open space.
When the public objections arose, Min withdrew a determination that the development did not need a special management area exemption.
That set off a cascade of state and federal lawsuits, resulting in a determination that a county practice of counting three single-family houses on one lot did not comply with a state law that allows SMA exemptions only for one house.
While the county settled with the owners of two lots, Sadri engaged in a long fight over whether he had the right to complete his purchase from Ulmer. He won that, which put him in a position to profit from a county buyout, since the value of Maui oceanfront property had skyrocketed.
The county bought out the other interests, for $6.4 million. Sadri has insisted that he doesn't want to sell, but wants to build.
He has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking an order for the county to allow him to proceed with building a house.
The county has made settlement offers, which would resolve the allegations of wrongdoing by officials, as well as acquire the real estate. The transmittal letter from the Office of Corporation Counsel to the Policy Committee indicates that Sadri has now proposed a financial and legal settlement.
Since the letter indicates the council would have to approve an appropriation, it is evident that Sadri is now prepared to give up ownership.
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