Kaua‘i Springs wins lawsuit against Planning Commission

In a legal victory that was described by its attorney as a “total home run,” the Kaua‘i Springs bottled water company was granted three permits by 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe yesterday in a strong rebuke of obstacles put up by the Kaua‘i County Planning Commission.

Kaua‘i Springs owner Jim Satterfield, who attended the proceeding with some 10 family members, said that he was almost “moved to tears” by the decision and categorized it as a “huge success.”

Watanabe, who said she was happy that Satterfield was in the courtroom to witness her ruling, decided the Planning Commission had “exceeded its jurisdiction” and was “clearly erroneous” in originally denying the Class IV, zoning and special permits to the company last year.

In addition to deeming those permits approved, Watanabe issued a permanent injunction that will prevent the Planning Commission from taking any further action against Kaua‘i Springs.

Kaua‘i Springs was forced to shut down for a period of some four months in early 2007, according to Satterfield, between the Planning Commission’s denial of the permits in January and Watanabe’s approval of a preliminary injunction in May.

Ever since the injunction was granted, allowing the company to stay in business while the merits of the case were being hashed out, Kaua‘i Springs was “operating under a cloud,” said attorney Robert Thomas of Honolulu firm Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert.

“They turned the heat up so bad we almost evaporated,” said a clearly relieved Satterfield.

The company had requested the additional permits after a competitor complained that it was conducting industrial activity on agricultural lands, according to Thomas.

Satterfield has a long-term agreement with the Knudsen Trust to obtain water from a spring at the base of Mount Kahili. The pipeline, which brings the water to Kaua‘i Springs’ Koloa bottling facility, is owned by the Grove Farm company.

Thomas has said the Planning Commission does not have the right to decide on water matters, only land matters, and that privately bottled ground water need not be regulated in the same fashion as public utilities. It appears that Watanabe agrees.

Yesterday’s victory is the first step toward full redemption.

On Sept. 2, Watanabe will hear arguments in Kaua‘i Springs’ federal lawsuit against the county of Kaua‘i for damages related to a violation of civil liberties.

“They stepped in the way of the American dream,” said Satterfield.

When asked what range of monetary compensation his client would be seeking in the suit, Thomas simply said “lots.”

Phone messages left for Planning Commission director Ian Costa and chair Steven Weinstein were not returned as of press time.

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