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Residents split over cemetery expansion

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Two parallel issues dominated last night’s informational meeting on the proposed expansion of Hawaiian Memorial Park in Windward Oahu.

First, whether the expansion is wanted or warranted.

Second, whether a small change to the city’s sustainability plan would make the proposed expansion easier.

The state Land Use Commission denied Hawaiian Memorial Park’s expansion project in November, noting in part that it contradicts the city’s plan.

A planner hired by the city said last night it won’t be so easy for Hawaiian Memorial Park to win expansion of its cemetery the second time around.

John Whalen, who conducted the meeting last night for the Department of Planning and Permitting, said "subtle changes" suggested by the cemetery to the Koolaupoko Sustainable Communities Plan to include cemeteries won’t guarantee that the Kaneohe cemetery can grow.

But a former city planner who opposes Hawaiian Memorial Park’s proposed 56.5-acre expansion said it will help the owners when they go before the state Land Use Commission a second time.

An overflow crowd of roughly 200 attended the briefing last night at Windward Community College.

Dominating the forum were about 75 employees, their family and friends and other supporters wearing green Hawaiian Memorial Park shirts. Many of them arrived in two tour buses.

"We’re probably going to approve this," said city Planning Commissioner Andrew Jamila Jr., a candidate for the state Senate from Waimanalo. He said he supports the amendment because the island needs more burial places.

Many of the residents who attended opposed the plan and questioned why any change is necessary.

"If they make the changes they say they are, it’ll be easier for the Land Use Commission to approve it because of the new language they’re proposing in the city’s plan," said Chuck Prentiss, chairman of the Kailua Neighborhood Board and a former city planner. "Next time they go before the commission, they will say the new plan will permit it.

"By the time it gets to the City Council, it’ll just be administerial details."

Grant Yoshimori, a Kaneohe resident, asked why the changes were proposed in the plan when both Kailua and Kaneohe neighborhood boards had opposed the amendments. The boards also collected 800 signatures in opposition, he said.

Whalen said the changes will make the language conform with other plans in other parts of the island.

Kailua resident Donna Wong asked, "Why do we need to be consistent? Each region is different from other areas. What is appropriate in one area is not appropriate in another."

The property in question is on state conservation land, and is designated by the city as P1 or preservation, which excludes cemeteries as an approved use.

Juliane McCreedy expressed concerns that the property is a watershed area and that groundwater may be contaminated by embalming fluids, citing information from a book on the subject.

Jay Morford of Hawaiian Memorial said groundwater has been tested at different cemeteries, and no contamination has occurred.

Additional comments can be made to mail@townscapeinc.com or 900 Fort Street Mall, Suite 1160, Honolulu 96813.

 

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