Ranch on the Bidding Block

Molokai Properties says land is up for sale if price is right.
By Sean Aronson

It’s been almost a year since Molokai Ranch closed its doors, but its importance to this island continues to keep it in the headlines.  The most recent chapter in the Ranch saga occurred at a hearing on last weeks’ House resolution requesting a fair appraisal of Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) land.

Dan Orodenker, General Manager for MPL, said in a live hearing Friday that the Ranch land is for sale if the right offer was on the table.  Rumors about MPL’s willingness to sell have been flying around Molokai for months, but this was the first public statement from MPL addressing the issue.

HCR 95, introduced last week by Ken Ito, Chair of the Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee (WLO), requests the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to conduct a fair and accurate appraisal of MPL’s lands.  The resolution cites MPL’s failure to allow access for subsistence hunting and farming as well as its lack of commitment to provide water and sewer services to West end residents among the reasons for State intervention.

At a hearing on the resolution last week, MPL Executive Director Peter Nicholas submitted a letter addressing the accusations against his company.  Nicholas denied every instance of wrongdoing saying, “The constitutional and public policy considerations against passage of the resolution clearly outweigh the interests of a few vocal members of the Molokai community who have been seeking to obtain the control of the property for many, many years.”

It was the first time MPL has officially commented on this issue, even after a previous bill, HB 1295, was introduced in February to condemn the Ranch land and allow the State to acquire it through eminent domain.

The most recent resolution also cites the attempt of several private investors to purchase MPL land as a reason the appraisal is needed. Although not mentioned by name, the renewable energy company UPC Wind has sought the land for wind energy use.

Supporters of the resolution include Karen Holt of Molokai Community Services Council and dozens of other island residents.  Holt attended last weeks’ hearing in Honolulu and presented reasons she would like to see the immediate passage of the resolution.  She cited Molokai’s 12% unemployment rate and the threat of water loss as the main reasons a fair appraisal is so urgent to the community.

A spokesman for the DLNR said they do not have the money to conduct an appraisal. The resolution was tabled after the WLO asked DLNR to find a way to pay for the cost of an appraisal. HCR 95 will return to the WLO committee for action as soon as this information is submitted, according to Holt.

Stay up to date on the status of HCR 95 by checking http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2009/lists/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HCR&billnumber=95.


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