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Korean Buddhist Dae Won Sa Temple of Hawaii v. Sullivan

953 P.2d 1315 (1998)

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Korean Buddhist Dae Won Sa Temple of Hawaii v. Sullivan

Hawaii Supreme Court

953 P.2d 1315 (1998)

Facts

The Honolulu Building Department issued a building permit to the Korean Buddhist Dae Won Sa Temple of Hawaii (Temple) (plaintiff) for the expansion of its campus in a residential zoning district. The permit specifically approved the building of the Hall, a building Temple planned to use for offices, a library, a museum, and an exhibition room. The permit approved the building based on Temple’s building plans, which indicated that the Hall’s height would be 66 feet. Once built, the Hall was 74 to 75 feet tall, which was nine feet taller than the permit allowed and over six feet taller than allowed by the relevant zoning ordinance. An inspector from the Department of Land Utilization (DLU) issued a notice of violation and ordered that construction on the Hall cease. Temple filed an application for a variance, which was denied by the Director after a public hearing because Temple had not met the hardship standards required for a variance. Temple subsequently filed a second application for a variance. Public hearings were again held, and despite Temple’s objections, the hearing officer allowed all witnesses to testify without being subject to cross-examination. Although the hearing officer did not allow cross-examination, he did allow Temple to present rebuttal witnesses and evidence. The Director denied Temple’s variance application, making three specific findings as required by zoning regulations. First, the Director found Temple would have reasonable use of its land without a variance, rejecting Temple’s religious arguments that the building must be taller than originally planned. Second, the Director found Temple had failed to demonstrate unique circumstances and found any financial hardship to lower the building’s height was self-created. Finally, the Director found the increased height of the building altered the essential character of the neighborhood. Temple appealed the Director’s decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which held several hearings and allowed both parties to call and cross-examine witnesses. The ZBA entered findings similar to those of the Director and denied Temple’s variance application. Temple appealed to circuit court, arguing its constitutional rights to procedural due process were violated. The trial court rejected Temple’s arguments, and Temple appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Levinson, J.)

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