HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that the city was wrong to approve a zoning variance that would have allowed a developer to build a 26-story tower on Waikiki's shoreline.
The court's unanimous decision is seen as a long-sought victory for environmental groups who have fought the project, which would have gone up just 50 feet from the shoreline makai of Kalakaua Avenue. It was meant to replace the current eight-story Diamond Head Tower at the Moana Surfrider Resort.
In a 76-page ruling, the justices said the city failed to prove that the tower wouldn't alter the character of the neighborhood.
"We from the very beginning thought that this tall castle in the sand basically violated the sense of place, and all the zoning laws that were put in place," said Stuart Coleman of the Surfrider Foundation, one of the four groups that took the case to court.
Developer Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts said in 2011 that the new tower would improve public ocean views, expand access to the beach and create jobs. The supreme court was the last chance for opponents to stop it from being built.
"We had suffered a number of defeats, to be honest, at the city council level, Department of Permitting and Planning, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the circuit court, the court of appeals," said Coleman.
All five justices ruled against the city and Kyo-ya. The opinion was written by Associate Justice Richard Pollack.
It's not just about Kyo-ya. Environmentalists said the ruling will keep other developers from encroaching on Waikiki Beach, as the zoning laws intended.
"It sets a great precedent, because if it had been able to violate these laws, these zoning laws in place, what's to stop other developers from doing the same?" said Coleman. "We had heard other developers had wanted to build higher, you know, closer to the beach."
Kyo-ya and the city could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Previous story: Proposed Waikiki tower moves forward