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Hawaii Supreme Court will hear Kyo-ya Tower case

By Allison Schaefers

LAST UPDATED: 6:13 p.m. HST, Jun 3, 2014

A lengthy environmental battle over a planned oceanfront hotel and condominium tower next to the Moana Surfrider Hotel in Waikiki is moving to the Hawaii Supreme Court. 

Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts received a zoning variance from the city Department of Planning and Permitting on Dec. 1, 2010, to position its tower within ground- and airspace-setback areas prohibited under zoning rules. Four environmental advocacy groups and Michelle Spalding Matson, who objected to the variance, appealed to the city's Zoning Board of Appeal, which ruled for the city in February 2013. 

The hui appealed again, but in October 2013 the state Circuit Court upheld the ruling from the zoning board of appeals. In April, the hui requested that the Intermediate Court of Appeals transfer the case to the Hawaii Supreme Court. On May 15, the state Supreme Court said it would consider the four-year legal challenge. 

"We are glad the Supreme Court has decided to hear the case," said Linda Paul, attorney for the hui, which includes Hawaii's Thousand Friends, the Surfrider Foundation, KAHEA -- the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, and the Ka Iwi Coalition. "It's a case that asks an important and fundamental question: Does the Mayor -- or his agents -- have unlimited power to grant exemptions of any magnitude from any ordinance?" 

Paul said she expects the court will rule later this year. The city, Kyo-ya and Starwood were not readily available to comment.

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