Sales are moving ahead for the second planned condominium tower at 801 South St. in Kakaako, but neighbors in an adjacent existing tower filed a lawsuit Friday trying to block the project.
The association of apartment owners at Royal Capitol Plaza sued the state agency that approved 801 South St. in Circuit Court, arguing that a permit for the second tower was issued unlawfully.
Honolulu attorney Carl Varady filed the lawsuit on behalf of Royal Capitol residents against the Hawaii Community Development Authority and is asking a judge to prevent any construction related to the second tower until an appeal to the permit is heard.
"Plaintiffs have suffered injury as a direct proximate result of HCDA’s wrongful conduct," the suit said.
HCDA officials could not be reached for comment Friday evening, but have previously said that the permit approval complied with all rules.
Numerous Royal Capitol residents, including some who are concerned about the loss of views from their building, testified at HCDA public hearings in October and December urging the agency to reject the second tower on a variety of grounds including the amount of density it would create on the site.
The lawsuit alleges that HCDA’s board predetermined its approval of the permit.
The complaint noted that board members held no discussion before voting on the permit after listening to more than three hours of testimony at a public hearing in December, and that the board voted to adopt HCDA staff findings and recommendations for approving the permit.
Royal Capitol’s lawsuit also alleges that HCDA violated state historic preservation law by ignoring measures that the head of the State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources said were necessary, including an archaeological survey.
A third major contention in the suit is that HCDA didn’t properly convene a contested-case hearing.
Contested-case hearings are provided for under state law and give people with an interest in state agency decisions the ability to have an interactive role in such decisions through a quasi-judicial process allowing legal representation, expert witnesses and cross-examination.
HCDA contends that the public has always had the right to request a contested case before public hearings on development permits commenced, but that a contested case is not allowed as an appeal after a decision under its rules and state law.
The agency earlier this month rejected a request for a contested case on a permit for another condo tower project, The Collection, on those grounds.
Royal Capitol residents petitioned HCDA for a contested case for 801 South St.’s second tower in December. The agency has yet to rule on the petition, though the lawsuit said the decision in the attempted Collection appeal shows that HCDA’s policy is to deny similar requests.
"This case is ripe for adjudication," the lawsuit said.