According to court records, the roof line of the Korean Buddhist Dae Wan Sa Temple was 9 feet too high.

Palolo group wins
temple fight in
state high court

A Palolo citizens' group that's fought for 17 years over a roof line 9 feet too tall has won a victory in state Supreme Court.

In 1988, the Concerned Citizens of Palolo and Life of the Land sued the Korean Buddhist Dae Won Sa Temple after it built a 75-foot structure designed to hold offices, a library and museum.

The temple's permit allowed for a 66-foot-tall roof line, but a city inspector soon determined that officials had added an extra floor to their original plans, making the roof line 9 feet higher than allowed, according to court records.

On Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Circuit Court should not have taken up the temple's motion of reconsideration in 2000 and instead should have thrown the case back to the city Zoning Board of Appeals, which has already denied the temple's applications for a zoning exemption three times.

In the reconsideration case, the Circuit Court ruled that the temple had only to shave 6 feet from its roof line, making it comply with the area's zoning regulations rather than its permit.

But the Concerned Citizens and Life of the Land appealed the ruling, pointing to a 1998 state Supreme Court decision on the case, which said the temple's arguments requesting an exception to its permit requirements "are without merit."

In its recently released ruling, the state Supreme Court said the Circuit Court "lacked jurisdiction" in taking up the case after the 1998 decision. The court also said "any future disposition of the issues raised by the parties falls within the jurisdiction" of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"This new ruling moves it (the issue) a couple of inches forward," said Fred Benco, attorney for the Concerned Citizens and Life of the Land.

He said it's unclear when the issue will go before the board again.

Meanwhile, the temple has never been fined for noncompliance, according to Benco. Attorneys for the temple could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"The temple hasn't complied," Benco said, "but we're holding their nose to the law."

He said at least 10 of the original 13 Palolo residents who opposed the structure have stuck with the case.

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