Cemetery expansion draws conservation criticism

Pat Newalu
Pat Newalu
Jim Drorbaugh, Jr
Jim Drorbaugh, Jr
Gregg Stoyer
Gregg Stoyer

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

KANEOHE (KHNL) - It's a tug-of-war over plans to expand a cemetery on Windward Oahu. On Friday, the State Land Use Commission (LUC) listened to supporters and opponents of the plan.

The heart of the debate - preserving land versus securing a future place for loved ones to rest.

With her father and brother is where cemetery manager Pat Newalu hopes to rest when her time comes.

"When it comes to death, there's no doubt that your family wants to be together. So I feel it's really important for the generations to come and it's always good for families to have that choice," said Newalu.

A choice Hawaiian Memorial wants to continue offering, by expanding the Kaneohe park cemetery. The plan - carve out 56 acres of a hillside to make room for 30,000 more plots.

"Even if we are developing or taking away some of the foliage, it's still a beautiful place. And it's going to remain serene, peaceful, and green," said Newalu.

"Well, I don't think dead people need a view. I think we can find better places for them other than up on the side of a hill," said Jim Drorbaugh, Jr., a Kaneohe resident.

Opponents say the proposed site is conservation land, with a heiau, and any development is a threat to the environment, and will cause erosion problems.

"It's going to impact Kaneohe Bay because of all the runoff. I mean, if you scorch out that entire hillside, it's all going to run into the Bay," said Drorbaugh, Jr.

"There's the possibility of flooding downhill from the properties," said Gregg Stoyer, a Kaneohe resident.

But Jay Morford, the General Manager of Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery, says they'll only use 29.5 acres for burial. The rest would be used as follows: 9.5 acres for cultural historic preservation, 11.4 acres for revegetated land, which includes re-planting 300 trees, 4.8 acres for internal roadways and a mausoleum, plus 1.3 acres for drainage retention.

"There is space for today but in the years to come we're going to run out and at that time we don't want to wait until it's too late," said Newalu.

For the expansion to go through, Hawaiian Memorial needs approval from LUC to re-zone the land from conservation to urban.

The commission is expected to take up the issue again in April.