On behalf of the Save Honolua Coalition, in response to Council Member Mike White's Oct. 21 Viewpoint: We agree there must be cooperation between the county, state and federal governments in addition to community groups to ensure the preservation of Lipoa Point, traditionally known as Kulaokaea, in perpetuity.
We are very grateful to Mayor Alan Arakawa and Planning Director Will Spence for designating 269 acres at Lipoa as preservation in the draft Maui Island Plan. We are also grateful to the council for leaving the immediate coastline at Honolua in preservation. We feel this increases the existing protection given by state conservation zoning.
We are disappointed that 139 acres overlooking Honolua Bay were taken out of preservation and believe there is a lot of confusion as to what is going on here.
According to the county's own frequently-asked-questions sheet regarding effects of ag-to-rural conversions, "designation of a Rural growth boundary doesn't automatically change a property's County zoning. A program to comprehensively change the zoning from Agriculture to Rural may be initiated by the County a number of years from now and after the community plans are revised."
The same principles should hold true for ag to preservation. Since the Maui Island Plan does not actually change zoning, is it really a taking? Value changes only when zoning changes, Maui Land & Pineapple Co. will still get a tax bill that says it is ag and conservation. The assessed value for the pension fund should be based on tax records and comparable sales in the region, not a classification in a long-range growth plan.
As for the ML&P pensioners, as long as ML&P continues to make payments and doesn't default, pensions wouldn't be jeopardized. ML&P must have known ending golf operations would be a triggering event that would require it to set aside $18.7 million to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.
ML&P is a publicly traded corporation, and the financial information about the ending of golf operations is well documented. In 2009, the Plantation Course was sold for $50 million, which the company reported as a $25.7 million gain in September 2010. In September 2011, it reported a $15.1 million gain from selling the Bay Course. In 2011, it also reported a gain of $3.3 million from a settlement of pensioner health insurance plans. Why wasn't the pensioner issue taken care of then? Now what happens if ML&P does default? Will the pensioners lose the value of their benefits if the land isn't immediately sold?
We'd also like to set the record straight on council members' beliefs that Save Honolua Coalition has failed to raise money. Today, ML&P prefers more cash as part of a purchase deal for the land. Things were different in the past. In 2007, the County Council earmarked $1 million in the open space fund for land acquisition with the intent that SHC would get matching funds from state and federal sources. However, in 2008, ML&P was more interested in park credits and transient vacation rental approval than cash and brought forward a proposal that did not require state or federal funds (and included protection for the mauka lands). So there was no failure to raise funds. SHC was flexible in working with the terms preferred by the landowner to put a deal on the table.
We fully support Arakawa's efforts to negotiate a deal. We remain committed to raising $5 million toward the purchase and management of Honolua lands. The intent is to acquire the undeveloped land surrounding Honolua Bay for fair market value to put into a conservation easement and to protect the 212 acres mauka.
Our present goal is to raise funds. We are accepting donations for the acquisition and management of this cherished area. We have three separate accounts. Donors may designate where they would like their donation to go - land acquisition/endowment, port-a-potty maintenance or general fund (from which we pay expenses such as bookkeeping, legal fees, insurance, etc.). All donations are tax deductible. The Save Honolua Coalition is a 100 percent volunteer-run organization and no board member is paid any salary.
* Tamara Paltin is the president of the Save Honolua Coalition. She lives in Napili.