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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 19, 2001

Wedding business fine against Felix upheld

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer

The city's Zoning Board of Appeals yesterday upheld the city's fine of City Councilman John Henry Felix for operating a wedding business at his oceanfront 'Aina Haina home, but don't expect the weddings or the legal battle to end soon.

Felix' reaction was succinct: "I disagree, respectfully."

The appeals board voted 3-to-1 to sustain the decision by the city Department of Planning and Permitting to cite Felix.

City officials have estimated the fine to date is $68,400 but the sanction has not been levied since the issue has yet to reach final resolution. Felix said he will appeal the decision to Circuit Court. In the meantime, the fine grows by $100 each day.

Board members Elizabeth Riegels and Roy Irei and vice chairman Carl Takamura voted to sustain the city's decision, while member David Minkin opposed the move. Board Chairman Rick Tsujimura has removed himself from the decision.

Felix is being represented by attorneys Fritz Rohlfing and Lorrie Lee Stone.

The city has hired private attorney Ben Matsubara to defend the city's position because city attorneys would have a conflict of interest in opposing a seated councilman.

Some neighbors and the 'Aina Haina Community Association complained that Felix should end the wedding business, which caters to visitors from Japan. But Felix has said that weddings have been held on the property for more than 20 years and should be allowed to continue.

Felix said he is paid $300 to $500 for each wedding and the ceremonies average about one a day.

Felix has maintained that the weddings are legal under a city land-use ordinance as "a home occupation" in a residential area because the people who run the weddings live in the two houses on the property.

The city's position is that commercial wedding services are not a legitimate home occupation.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.