Big Isle Land Sale on Hold

SUBHEAD: County took Hamakua land for back taxes. Market too down for resale to balance the books. Image above: View along the east coast of Big Island on the Hamakua Coast. From ( By Nancy Cook Lauer on 25 May 2010 in the Hawaii Tribune - ( With the administration giving up for now on selling Hamakua lands, one councilman wants to revoke the county's authority to do so without future council approval. Mayor Billy Kenoi announced Monday the administration has canceled a bid opening scheduled for that day and will hold off on future sales attempts until the market improves. Despite several months of advertising, a land tour with prospective buyers and several scheduled bid openings, the county received no bids above the appraised value, the minimum allowed by law. "We weren't going to give the land away and we weren't going to engage in a fire sale," Kenoi said. Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann says the council's authority to sell the land -- a controversial vote that brought many Hamakua residents out in force to oppose the measure -- came because council members were under the impression the budget couldn't be balanced without the sale. The County Council voted 6-3 in November on a resolution allowing Mayor Billy Kenoi to sell 737 acres of the holdings the county had received in lieu of taxes from bankrupt Hamakua Sugar Co. in 1994. At the time, county officials predicted the sale would bring in $8.2 million. That figure was reduced by a couple of million after appraisals came in. But the administration was able to balance this year's budget without selling the land and has put in only $10,000 in land sales in the new budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Kenoi said he wants to retain authority to sell the land when the market improves and said he opposes the council taking away the right to do so. "I believe we need to keep all our options open," Kenoi said. .

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