Spirit Temple v. Cnty. of Maui

Decision Date23 April 2019
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. 14-00535 SOM/RLP
Citation384 F.Supp.3d 1231
Parties SPIRIT OF ALOHA TEMPLE and Fredrick R. Honig, Plaintiffs, v. COUNTY OF MAUI, Defendant, and State of Hawaii, Intervenor-Defendant
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Hawaii

Adam G. Lang, Jonathan S. Durrett, Shauna L.S. Bell, Durrett Lang, LLLP, Honolulu, HI, Robert L. Greene, Pro Hac Vice, Roman Storzer, Pro Hac Vice, Storzer & Associates, P.C., Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Brian A. Bilberry, Thomas W. Kolbe, Department of the Corporation Counsel Maui, Wailuku, HI, for Defendant.


Susan Oki Mollway, United States District Judge


Plaintiff Fredrick R. Honig bought land on Maui zoned for agricultural use and leased that land to Plaintiff Spirit of Aloha Temple, which, among other things, conducted a commercial wedding operation on the agricultural land until the County of Maui told it to stop. Thereafter, Plaintiffs applied for a Special Use Permit to build a church and hold religious events, including weddings, on the agriculture land, uses not allowed without a Special Use Permit. After the requested Special Use Permit was denied, Plaintiffs filed this action, asserting federal and state claims against the Maui Planning Commission and the County of Maui.

On January 27, 2016, this court dismissed the Planning Commission as a party and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Count X, which asked this court to resolve an appeal from the Planning Commission's denial of the Special Use Permit. This court stayed the remaining claims as a matter of Pullman abstention, allowing Plaintiffs to appeal the denial of the Special Use Permit through the state courts.

In the state court, Plaintiffs reserved their right to have their federal claims decided by this court, informing the state trial court that the only claim before the state court involved the appeal of the Planning Commission's decision. On November 17, 2016, the state trial court affirmed the Planning Commission's decision. No further appeal was filed. This court subsequently dissolved the stay so that the remaining claims could be addressed.

The State of Hawaii, which intervened in this action, now moves for summary judgment, arguing that res judicata bars the prior restraint claim asserted in Count V and that, even if res judicata does not apply, there was no impermissible prior restraint as a matter of law. Plaintiffs filed a counter motion for summary judgment with respect to the prior restraint claim. This court rules that res judicata does not bar the prior restraint claim and turns to the merits of that claim, granting the State of Hawaii's motion and the County of Maui's Joinder therein with respect to the merits of that claim.

The state also seeks partial summary judgment with respect to Counts I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII, and IX (no Count III is asserted in the Complaint), arguing that Plaintiffs are only asserting as applied challenges in those counts, not facial challenges. Plaintiffs do not oppose this part of the motion, and this court therefore rules that only as applied challenges are pled in those counts. The court leaves the merits of those challenges for later proceedings.


The factual background for this case was set forth in this court's Order Denying Motions for Summary Judgment of July 20, 2018. See 322 F. Supp. 3d 1051. That background is incorporated by reference and is summarized and supplemented below.

In September 1994, Frederick Honig purchased agricultural property on Haumana Road in Haiku, Hawaii.

In September 2007, Spirit of Aloha Temple, Inc., was incorporated; Honig was listed as its Senior Minister. Honig and Spirit of Aloha Temple practice "Integral Yoga." For purposes of these motions, no party contests the validity of Honig's religion or the sincerity of his beliefs.

On October 12, 2007, Spirit of Aloha Temple, through Honig, applied for a Special Use Permit for the property to be used for a "Church, church operated bed and breakfast establishment, weddings, special events, day seminars, and helicopter landing pad." ECF No. 183-3, PageID # 2592. On June 30, 2008, Spirit of Aloha Temple amended the Special Use Permit application to define Spirit of Aloha Temple's activities as including "a weekly service, classes, special events, day programs and weddings." ECF No. 183-3, PageID # 2593.

On March 30, 2010, the Planning Commission for the County of Maui held a hearing on the Special Use Permit application. See Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision and Order of Maui Planning Commission. See ECF No. 183-3, PageID # 2583. The Maui Planning Commission voted 5 to 3 to deny the application. Id. , PageID #s 2586-87; 2590.

In September 2012, the County of Maui issued Honig three notices of violation for building a structure without a proper permit, conducting transient vacation rentals on property where such rentals were not allowed, and conducting commercial weddings on property where such weddings were not allowed. The County of Maui ordered Honig to cease and desist the conduct. See ECF No. 183-8, PageID #s 2877-78. The County of Maui and Honig ultimately settled these matters. See id. , PageID #s 2877-83.

On November 21, 2012, Spirit of Aloha Temple, through Honig, submitted a second Special Use Permit application to use the property for church activities. ECF No. 183-6, PageID #2803. Spirit of Aloha Temple sought to use the property for a classroom on weekdays; a weekly church service; and educational, inspirational, and spiritual events, including "Hawaiian Cultural Events, such as Hula performances, Seminars on Hawaiian Plant Based Nutrition, Cultural Music Performances, and Spiritual commitment ceremonies including weddings." Id. , PageID # 2811.

The Maui Planning Commission denied the 2012 Special Use Permit application, stating:

The Commission finds that there is evidence of record that the proposed uses expressed in this Application should they be approved would increase vehicular traffic on Haumana Road, which is narrow, winding, one-lane in areas, and prone to flooding in inclement weather. The Commission finds that Haumana Road is regularly used by pedestrians, including children who use the road to access the bus stop at the top of the road. The commission finds that granting the Application would adversely affect the health and safety of residents who use the roadway, including endangering human life. The Commission finds that the health and safety of the residents' and public's use of Haumana Road is a compelling government interest and that there is no less restrictive means of ensuring the public's safety while granting the uses requested in the Application.

ECF No. 185-9, PageID # 3288-89.

The Maui Planning Commission noted that section 205-6 of Hawaii Revised Statutes allows certain "unusual and reasonable uses" within agricultural and rural districts, in addition to uses for which the property is classified. Id. , PageID # 3289. The Maui Planning Commission stated that, to determine whether a proposed use is an "unusual and reasonable use," section 15-15-95 of Hawaii Administrative Rules sets forth "guidelines" for the granting of an exception to agricultural restrictions. It was the Maui Planning Commission's understanding that a Special Use Permit application could be denied if any of those "guidelines" was not satisfied. See Depo. of William Spence at 31 (Feb. 5, 2018), ECF No. 215-18, PageID # 4649.

In allowing "[c]ertain ‘unusual and reasonable’ uses within agricultural ... districts other than those for which the district is classified ...," http://luc.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/LUC-Admin-Rules_Chapter15-15_2013.pdf (Nov. 2, 2013), section 15-15-95(c) provides five "guidelines" for determining uses that "may" be permitted:

(1) The use shall not be contrary to the objectives sought to be accomplished by chapters 205 and 205A, HRS, and the rules of the commission;
(2) The proposed use would not adversely affect surrounding property;
(3) The proposed use would not unreasonably burden public agencies to provide roads and streets, sewers, water drainage and school improvements, and police and fire protection;
(4) Unusual conditions, trends, and needs have arisen since the district boundaries and rules were established; and
(5) The land upon which the proposed use is sought is unsuited for the uses permitted within the district.

Id. These "guidelines" are at the heart of the parties' dispute in this case.

The Commission concluded that subsections 15-15-95(c)(2) and (3) were not satisfied.1 With respect to subsection 15-15-95(c)(2), the Commission concluded that the proposed uses "would adversely affect the surrounding properties" given concerns about the safety of Haumana Road. Id. , PageID # 3290. With respect to subsection 15-15-95(c)(3), the Commission concluded that the proposed uses would increase traffic and burden public agencies providing roads and streets, police and fire protection. The Commission stated that it had "significant concerns about the narrowness of Haumana Road and vehicle and pedestrian safety both of potential visitors to the Property and property owners along Haumana Road and the fact that the Property is at the terminus of Haumana Road and therefore traffic to the Property would negatively impact residents' safety and use of Haumana Road." Id.

On November 26, 2014, Plaintiffs filed the Complaint in this matter. See ECF No. 1. Count X sought to appeal the Maui Planning Commission's denial of the 2012 Special Use Permit application. The Complaint asserted other federal and state claims, including a prior restraint claim based on the Maui Planning Commission's allegedly unbridled...

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  • Spirit of Aloha Temple v. Cnty. of Maui, CIVIL NO. 14-00535 SOM/RLP
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
    • 22 Julio 2019
    ...factual background for this case was set forth in this court's previous orders. See 2019 WL 2146237 (D. Haw. May 16, 2019) ; 384 F.Supp.3d 1231 (D. Haw. 2019) ; 322 F. Supp. 3d 1051 (D. Haw. 2018). That background is incorporated by reference and is supplemented below.On November 21, 2012, ......

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