The Maui News reported today that the Valley Isle Fellowship got through its first hurdle for its change of zone when the Maui planning commission approved its application.
Under state law, because the parcel is less than 15 acres, the commission was able to approve a state district boundary amendment from agriculture to urban and a county zone change from agriculture to public/quasi-public. The application now goes to the council for final approval.
On the commission's mind must have been the the two special permit applications filed by Hale O Kaula church, which it denied in 1995 and 2001. After the denials, Hale O Kaula brought a suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), on the basis that that those denials were a burden on the church's religious exercise. The parties finally settled out of court after the church reaffirmed its willingness to abide by reasonable conditions, and the permit was granted.
A detailed discussion of the Hale O Kaula church case can be found here and here.