Flores v. Board of Land and Natural Resources, 080818 HIISC, SCAP-17-0000059

Docket Nº:SCAP-17-0000059
Opinion Judge:NAKAYAMA, J.
Party Name:E. KALANI FLORES, Appellant-Appellee, v. BOARD OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES; DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES; SUZANNE D. CASE, in her official capacity as Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, STATE OF HAWAI'I, Appellees-Appellants/Cross-Appellees, and UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI'I, Appellee-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
Attorney:Clyde J. Wadsworth and Kaliko#onalani D. Fernandes, (Kimberly Tsumoto Guidry, William. J. Wynhoff, Julie China and David D. Day, with them on the briefs) for Appellees-Appellants/Cross- Appellees State of Hawai#i, Board of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources, and ...
Judge Panel:RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.
Case Date:August 08, 2018
 
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E. KALANI FLORES, Appellant-Appellee,

v.

BOARD OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES; DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES; SUZANNE D. CASE, in her official capacity as Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources,

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Appellees-Appellants/Cross-Appellees,

and

UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI'I, Appellee-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

No. SCAP-17-0000059

Supreme Court of Hawaii

August 8, 2018

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRD CIRCUIT ENVIRONMENTAL COURT (CAAP-17-0000059; CIV. NO. 14-1-324)

Clyde J. Wadsworth and Kaliko#onalani D. Fernandes, (Kimberly Tsumoto Guidry, William. J. Wynhoff, Julie China and David D. Day, with them on the briefs) for Appellees-Appellants/Cross- Appellees State of Hawai#i, Board of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources, and Chairperson Suzanne D. Case.

David Kauila Kopper and Camille Kaimâlie Kalama for Appellant-Appellee E. Kalani Flores.

John P. Manaut and Ian L. Sandison (Arsima A. Muller with them on the briefs) for Appellee-Appellee/Cross- Appellant University of Hawai'i.

RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.

OPINION

NAKAYAMA, J.

In May 2014, Appellee-Appellee/Cross-Appellant University of Hawai'i (the University) requested that Appellee- Appellant/Cross-Appellee Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) consent to a sublease that the University intended to enter into with TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO) for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the Mauna Kea Science Reserve (Sublease). BLNR subsequently addressed the University's request for its consent to the Sublease at two separate public meetings. At both meetings, Appellant-Appellee E. Kalani Flores (Flores) orally requested that BLNR hold a contested case hearing prior to making a decision on the matter. Following the second meeting, Flores filed a written petition for a contested case hearing. BLNR denied Flores's request and consented to the Sublease.

Flores appealed BLNR's denial of his request for a contested case hearing to the Environmental Court of the Third Circuit (environmental court). The environmental court ruled that based upon this court's opinion in Mauna Kea Anaina Hou v. Board of Land and Natural Resources, 136 Hawai'i 376, 363 P.3d 224 (2015), BLNR infringed upon Flores's constitutional rights by rejecting his request for a contested case hearing.

On secondary appeal, BLNR and the University argue that the environmental court erred in ruling that Flores was entitled to a contested case hearing because: (1) BLNR's consent to the Sublease did not fall within the purview of Hawai'i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 91, as BLNR was acting as a landlord engaged in the custodial management of public property; and (2) a contested case hearing was not required by law because it was not mandated by statute, administrative rule, or due process.

For the reasons stated below, we reject BLNR's and the University's argument that HRS Chapter 91 does not apply in this case. However, we agree with BLNR and the University that BLNR was not required to hold a contested case hearing prior to consenting to the Sublease because such a hearing was not required by statute, administrative rule, or due process under the circumstances of this case. Consequently, we hold that the environmental court erred in ruling that BLNR violated Flores's constitutional rights when it denied his request for a contested case hearing in this case.

Accordingly, we reverse the environmental court's January 6, 2017 Final Judgment and "Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Appellees State of Hawai'i, Board of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources, and Chairperson Suzanne D. Case's Motion for Stay of Proceedings, or in the Alternative for the Court to Issue its Decision on Appeal, Filed October 25, 2016; Vacating Consent to Sublease and Non-Exclusive Easement Agreement Between TMT International Observatory LLC and the University of Hawaii Under General Lease No. S-4191; and Remanding Matter to the Board of Land and Natural Resources" (Order).

I.

BACKGROUND

On June 21, 1968, BLNR leased the land within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve to the University for a term of sixty-five years (Master Lease). The Master Lease is set to expire on December 31, 2033, and permits the University to use the leased premises "as a scientific complex, including without limitation thereof an observatory, and as a scientific reserve being more specifically a buffer zone to prevent the intrusion of activities inimical to said scientific complex." Pursuant to paragraph five of the Master Lease, the University "shall not sublease . . . any rights thereunder without the prior written approval of [BLNR]."

On May 22, 2014, Donald 0. Straney (Straney), the Chancellor of the University of Hawai'i at Hilo, sent BLNR a written request for BLNR's approval and consent to the Sublease. Straney stated that the University intended to sublease an 8.7-acre portion of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, which was covered by the Master Lease, to TIO for the construction and operation of the TMT.

The Sublease is set to expire on December 31, 2033, the same date that the Master Lease is set to terminate. With respect to the use of the subleased premises, the Sublease provides, in relevant part: Sublessee shall use the Subleased Premises solely to construct and operate the TMT Facilities in accordance with this Sublease and the Scientific Cooperation Agreement. The construction and operation of the Subleased Premises shall be conducted in strict compliance with the terms and conditions of Conservation District Use Permit HA-3568 approved by the Lessor on April 12, 2013 (the "TMT CDUP"), including performance of all mitigation conditions set forth therein, and any amended or subsequent Conservation District Use Permit. Sublessee shall not at any time during the term of this Sublease construct, place, maintain, or install on the Subleased Premises any other building, structure, or improvement without the prior written approval of Sublessor and Lessor and upon such conditions as Sublessor or Lessor may impose. For purposes of the foregoing sentence, any other "improvement" means improvements that are not specified in or contemplated by the TMT CDUP and not contained within the building envelop of TMT observatory plans approved in accordance with Section 37 below.

Concerning the rights of Native Hawaiians with respect to the subleased premises, the Sublease provides: The Constitution of the State of Hawaii mandates the protection of recognized customary and traditional native Hawaiian rights subject to State regulation. This Sublease shall be subject to the right of Native Hawaiians to exercise protected traditional and customary practices as provided in the [Comprehensive Management Plan] and consistent with the laws of the State of Hawaii.

A. BLNR Administrative Proceedings

On June 13, 2014, BLNR held a public meeting addressing, inter alia, the University's request for BLNR's consent to the Sublease (first public meeting). At the first public meeting, Flores provided oral and written testimony on the numerous reasons underlying his position that BLNR should not consent to the Sublease, and orally requested that BLNR hold a contested case hearing before rendering a decision on the University's request. No action was taken on Flores's request for a contested case hearing at the first public meeting.

Ultimately, BLNR did not rule on the University's request for BLNR's consent to the Sublease at the first public meeting. Instead, BLNR deferred the issue for consideration at a later date to allow the University to address the questions and issues raised during the public testimony on the matter.

BLNR revisited the University's request for BLNR's consent to the Sublease at a public meeting held on June 27, 2014 (second public meeting). At the second public meeting, Flores provided further oral testimony and submitted additional written testimony explaining the reasons why, in his view, BLNR should not consent to the Sublease. Flores also orally renewed his request for a contested case hearing and submitted a written petition for a contested case hearing.

Following the completion of public testimony at the second public meeting, BLNR approved the University's request for its consent to the Sublease. However, BLNR provided that the effect of its consent was "stayed . . . until administrative proceedings on any contested case requests are concluded." No action was taken regarding Flores's request for a contested case hearing at the second public meeting.

On July 3, 2014, Flores filed his written petition for a contested case hearing. Flores stated that his interest in BLNR's consent to the...

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