The Hawaii Land Use Commission begins the process of considering Service Corp. International cemetery expansion into protected lands.
Thursday, June 11th was the first meeting held by the The Hawaii Land Use Commission to discuss the potential of the Hawaiian Memorial Park cemetery expanding into forested conservation land. The meeting was held via video conference until normal protocol can return. More meetings will be held until a consensus can be met.
The Hawaii Land Use Commission
In 1961 Hawaii adopted a State land use law (Chapter 205), which created a structure to regulate and manage how the land is used. Under the law all land is classified into one of four land use districts.
To administer the Land Use Law the State Legislature established the Land Use Commission composed of nine members, who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. One member is appointed from each of the four counties; five members are appointed at-large. The Commissioners are non-paid volunteers who represent a cross-section of the community.
Expansion requests brought about by Service Corp. International
Service Corporation International (SCI) is an American provider of funeral goods and services as well as cemetery property and services. SCI operates more than 1500 funeral homes and 400 cemeteries in 43 states, eight Canadian provinces, and Puerto Rico. SCI thinks the expansion is necessary for Oahu and would add a lot of value to the community.
During the Land Use Commission presentation the commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE had valuation expert Tom Holliday say that about 120,000 plots are needed on Oahu through 2040 to satisfy projected demand, but that currently only 16,500 plots are available.
SCI continued by saying that a March survey of 400 adults found that 29% of respondents were neutral and 7% opposed the project. And that the $29 million expansion would add 30,000 burial sites to the current 79,000-plot Hawaiian Memorial Park cemetery.
The company’s Chief operating officer, Sumner J. Waring III, said in a May 1 letter to the commission that the project would provide job opportunities, increase community spending and help raise tax revenue for the city and state.
The current plan would not only add additional land for burials, but establish an easement to be held by a nonprofit trust protecting adjacent land from future development in perpetuity.
The plan also calls for a cultural preserve around a Native Hawaiian temple and measures to protect the habitat of an endangered native damselfly.
Hui o Pikoiloa, is a community advocacy group that has been fighting to protect the Oneawa/Mahinui hillside from development since 2007.
They also fought this same development request in 2009 and won. Member Grant Yoshimura said the CBRE supply assessment excludes 4,500 unsold plots at Hawaiian Memorial and ignores the option for customers to have up to two caskets or four urns in a single plot. And the same reasons that the land shouldn’t have been developed in 2009 still exists today.
Hui o Pikoiloa reasons for the continued preservation of the conservation land
- Protect the Endangered Blackline Damselfly – There are less than a thousand of these in the entire world, and HMP will be encroaching habitat.
- There is sufficient Cemetery space on Oahu – as evident by advertisements at various cemeteries on Oahu.
- Proposal to bury people in the Kawaewae Heiau cultural preserve.
- Rockfall hazards
- Destruction of native flora and fauna ecosystems
- Destruction of the scenic landscape for Kaneohe
- Flooding caused by loss of vegetation
- Loss of the Kawa Stream watershed
- Impact from run-off to Kaneohe Bay
- Dangers of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides on Pikoiloa Residents
- Increased crime due to lack of security controls
- Risk of flooding from under-capacity retention ponds