Skip to comments.Oprah Winfrey And Her Private Maui Road
Posted on 02/16/2012 12:21:26 PM PST by Kennard
According to Forbes, Oprah Winfrey is worth $2.7 billion. The 57-year-old former actor became famous for her Oprah Winfrey Show (which ceased production in May) but still runs a vast media empire. She owns a production company (Harpo Productions), a cable network (OWN), a magazine (O), Oprah.com and the Oprah Radio satellite station. She also owns estates in Montecito, California and Fisher Island, Florida; houses in Lavallette, New Jersey, Douglasville, Georgia and Telluride, Colorado; and assorted properties on the islands of Antigua and Maui. The latter includes 100 acres in Hana, 1,000 acres Upcountry (which boasts a small, terribly exclusive 12-room bed and breakfast) and a four-mile road.
And not just any road, either: Oprah's road is concrete and asphalt 12 feet across. Goodfellow Brothers paved it in December 2010. The road stretches from the water tank at Kealakapu Road near Piilani Highway in Kihei to Keokoa, near Haleakala Highway. It's a road locals have been waiting for 40 years--a potentially golden road that could radically ease traffic congestion in Central Maui.
That is, if the public could use it, which it most certainly cannot. "The paved road, drainage swales and detention ponds will be privately maintained," stated a June 2009 Drainage Report on the effects of paving the road prepared by Wayne I. Arakaki Engineer LLC for OW Ranch, LLC, (the initials reportedly stand for "Oprah Winfrey") and kept on file with the Maui County Planning Department. "This is a private roadway and will not be open to the public."
OW Ranch paid for the road. "It wasn't cheap," said OW Ranch agent Hugh Starr when asked how much it cost. He ultimately declined to provide a figure, and officials with both the county Planning Department and Haleakala Ranch said they either didn't know or couldn't provide the number (grading the road did require a $34,520 bond, which county civil engineer Lance Nakamura said represented just a fraction of the grading costs).
According to Starr, the road lies entirely on Haleakala Ranch land, which he said was the road's main user. But he added that OW Ranch and Kamaole Ranch (which is owned by Winfrey's former personal trainer Bob Greene, who is also listed as a manager for OW Ranch) retain access rights to the road that dated back to OW Ranch's original purchase of the 1,000 Upcountry acres from Haleakala Ranch. Starr called the original dirt and gravel road "very rocky and dusty" as well as "dangerous," which the grading permit and accompanying drainage report makes clear.
"We will paved [sic] approximately four miles of road 12 feet wide," states the county drainage report. "Grades which is [sic] greater than 12 percent will be constructed out of concrete. We will construct drainage swales along the paved road, with plastic liner. All slopes will be graded at a 3:1 [ratio]."
Hugh Starr referred to the road as a "driveway" that "makes going in a lot easier," though he added that the road doesn't actually reach any dwellings owned by OW Ranch or Kamaole Ranch. "It was an existing ranch utility road," he said. "The Department of Water Supply, Maui Electric and Haleakala Ranch all use it."
Rumors about the road have flown about the island for months. During a Jan. 11 Maui Planning Commission hearing on OW Ranch's request to extend a permit for its Silver Cloud bed and breakfast in Kula, Chairman Jonathan Starr (no relation to Hugh) asked OW Ranch agents whether the road existed and if it tied into Winfrey's Silver Cloud bed and breakfast.
Tom Welch, an attorney representing OW Ranch, Kamaole Ranch and Silver Cloud, said the road did not connect to the Upcountry bed and breakfast.
"Mr. Chairman, yeah, in I think it was 2003 [sic] when Kamaole Ranch LLC, an affiliated entity, bought the land, bought [a] thousand acres from Haleakala Ranch in this area," Welch said during the hearing, according to the official minutes (a receptionist at the Kahului law firm Mancini, Welch & Geiger said Welch was unavailable to comment for this story). "They negotiated with Haleakala Ranch to get an easement over an existing ranch road so that, so that there could be access down below... [T]he way it's set up, and the way it finally turned out was, the ranch granted an easement for the personal use of the particular client. And it's over the ranch, it's over an existing ranch road, and it allows them to, allows the client to use it from time to time subject to notice requirements."
Curiously, at the hearing Welch also told the planning commissioners that "this is not a entire, entirely harmonious situation between the use of the ranch land for ranching purposes and the personal of use [sic] but it's all worked out and that's basically the situation." When asked what Welch meant, J. Scott Meidell, an agent for the Haleakala Ranch, denied that any tension existed between Haleakala and OW Ranches. "There's no disagreement over it at all," he said.
Another curiosity: The original grading and grubbing permit application, dated June 22, 2010, indicated "OW Ranch LLC" was the property owner, with "Hugh Starr" listed as the agent. At some point that name was crossed out and the words "Haleakala Ranch Company" hand-written next to it. The new agent listed was Meidell.
"I don't know why" the crossing out occurred, Meidell said. "But the actual landowner has to sign the permit, and Haleakala Ranch is the landowner."
In any case, though the road is not visible from either Piilani Highway in Kihei or Haleakala Highway in Kula, Hugh Starr said members of the public still find their way to it.
It's hard to monitor the road," Starr said. "There's some concern about the general public. It's kind of a double-edged sword because the road is very attractive to skateboards and joggers. We have definite security issues."
Typical, the "little people" of this island have been waiting for a practical route from Kihei to Upcountry for years and years and years..never mind how pratical it is, how much sense its makes, its Maui after all....but the rich always get their way..Oprah doesn't like the stupid drive like everybody else has to endure, so presto..a road for her; the "little people" can't use...Let them eat cake!!!!!
Oprah is series. She only hires starrs.
If I understand this correctly one or more private citizens have, with their own money, built their own road on their own land.
And people who do not own the land, and did not pay for the road to be built, are angry because they are not permitted to use the road that they did not pay for, which sits on land they do not own.
Is that about right?
Sounds like it to me.
Except that if it was such a big deal, and such a big need of the locals they should have gone through the proper paperwork and had the land seized for a public road. But they didn’t.
I dispised the Oprah Winfrey show and the propaganda it fed to women for decades, however Oprah earned her money, invested it carefully, and end up with a 4 mile road in Maui. Don't see how it's anyone's business but hers.
I despised the Oprah Winfrey show and the propaganda it fed to women for decades, however Oprah earned her money, invested it carefully, and end up with a 4 mile road in Maui. Don't see how it's anyone's business but hers.
Ayup. That's why I didn't just post as I usually do...I knew somebody would be along in the first handful of posts to point that out.
The traffic on Maui is one of the reasons why it’s my least favorite island.
The road is four miles long, it was built with her money on her property, just because I dislike Oprah (remember when she implied anyone can get AIDS?)but it’s still her money and property.
Maui would be better off making the road from the airport North around the top of the island to Lahaina usable. Now, if you use it, you violate your rental contract although I always used it, you just need to pay attention.
My biggest problem with Hawaii is them letting anyone have a birth certificate without requiring at least some form of documentation!
A shining example of how capitalism allows someone with a little talent and creativity, willingness to work and take some risks, and a bit of “right place at right time” luck to get very, very rich.
Her money, her land, her road. Her business.
It's admirable that we honor private property rights and restrain the temptation to fault this doyenne of soft socialism. If we built such a road, it would be expropriated. The correct politics has its privileges. To me, that is a disturbing thought.
Excellent efficiency of words. Well played.
Excellent efficiency of words. Well played.
I agree. Some folks around here are way too willing to cast the first stone at someone who they disagree with in any manner for doing the same thing they espouse.
This is capitalism people....it should work for all.
I’d be lying if I pretended to be TOTALLY ideologically pure, though. I wouldn’t say “his land, his business” about a neighbor (mine, yours or anyones) whose property was an eyesore strewn with rusting out vehicles and assorted trash.
But I would offer to help with the cleanup if it was only bad circumstances and not bad behavior.