A "Sunshine Law" challenge to the Maui County Council's approval of the Honua'ula project, also known as Wailea 670, has been sustained defeated in a landmark Hawai'i Supreme Court ruling.
The high court's 80-page ruling last week in Kanahele vs. Maui County Council finds that the council did not violate the state's open meetings law when council members circulated written memoranda on amendments for the public. And while it found that its Land Use Committee and the council as a whole did not violate the law when they recessed and reconvened meetings on the project numerous times, the Supreme Court found that such action does not comport with the spirit of openness and provided guidance for future practice.
The council approved the 1,150-unit project's first phase of zoning in 2008. The project mauka of the Wailea Resort also calls for building an 18-hole golf course, a clubhouse, retail stores, a 12-mile network of trails and bike paths and a 40-acre preserve for native plants.
Those challenging the council's action contended that Hawai'i law prohibits council members from communicating in writing to the entire membership of the council outside of a public meeting.
They also argued that the law limits a board, such as the council, to a single continuance of a noticed meeting. In other words, any council committee or regular meeting-beyond a single continuance-would require the posting of a new agenda and the acceptance of public testimony, the Kihei residents who challenged the Council petitioners maintained.
The Supreme Court ordered the case returned to the Circuit Court on Maui for a consideration of an award to the challengers for their attorney's fees and costs in the suit.
The full opinion can be found atwww.courts.state.hi.us/docs/opin_ord/sct/2013/August/SCWC-29649.pdf.