Friday, July 9, 1999

Palolo temple opponents
suffer legal setback

By Debra Barayuga


Palolo residents who challenged the legality of the construction of a controversial Buddhist temple in their neighborhood over a decade ago lost a battle in court yesterday.

But they say the fight is not over. And the legal wrangle is not likely to end any time soon.

Fred Benco, attorney for the Concerned Citizens of Palolo and Life of the Land, who sued the Korean Buddhist Dae Won Sa Temple of Hawaii in 1988, said the issues decided by a jury yesterday were "the tip of the iceberg" and that they plan to appeal equally important issues.

The jury found that the plaintiffs did not prove they suffered from noise caused by temple construction and church services, nor had their views obstructed because of the temple's soaring roofline.

A year ago, the Hawaii Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings that denied a zoning variance to allow the temple's main hall to remain at its present height. The roofline is 9 feet higher than allowed by current building codes. The ruling meant the temple had to lop off 9 feet off the roof.

The temple is still working with the city to resolve the roof height and cannot fix the roof until it receives the go-ahead from the city, said Roger Moseley, attorney for the temple.

No construction work, except for minor repair and building maintenance work has occurred since the city issued a stop-work order in February 1988, Moseley said.

Moseley had argued that the residents did not suffer from the noise and loss of views that they claimed. "I don't think the law should recognize the kinds of claims they're seeking."

Among the damages sought by the plaintiffs included loss of value to their property and enjoyment of their property due to noise from construction and church services.

The temple does not have an existing use permit or site plan review required to operate as a church on the site, Benco said. "This is just a morass -- people are not doing what they're supposed to."

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