After 10-year struggle, Hawaiians win permit for chapel

Posted: Friday, November 26, 2004

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) After 10 years, two denials, a federal lawsuit and a contested case hearing, a small rural congregation won a permit to build a chapel on its property.

The Maui county planning commission first denied Hale O Kaula a special use permit to build on its property, which is zoned for agricultural use, in 1995. Last week the commission unanimously approved the permit, following a nine-hour meeting.

Conditions for the permit include limiting service hours, and attendance at weekly meetings and four special annual events. In turn, the church dropped a federal lawsuit against the county and will receive an undisclosed payment from the county, covered by insurance.

Several neighbors opposed the chapel, saying it would generate too much traffic.

Hale O Kaula, a congregation of 60 affiliated with the Living Word Fellowship, alleged that the county violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which requires government to show compelling interest, such as public safety, before denying such zoning requests.

The U.S. Justice Department's Civil Division intervened to defend the federal law and last year filed its own discrimination lawsuit against the county that will be heard in 2005.

''I hope we can be good neighbors,'' church Elder Robert Poulson said. ''We're going to try to turn this around for everybody.''

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