Community divided over Kaneohe cemetery’s plan to expand by 30 acres

Updated: Oct. 29, 2019 at 5:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After selling most of its burial plots, Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery in Kaneohe wants to expand its 156-acre cemetery by about 30 acres.

And that’s got residents in the area concerned.

Betty Jo Harris lives with her son in the Pikoiloa Subdivision near the cemetery.

“They don’t get it," Harris said. “They don’t get the flooding that this neighborhood has been flooded out in the last three months.”

She and others say they’re also worried about the development’s impact on a native damselfly, ancient heiau and even dangerous chemicals.

"If Hawaiian Memorial were to be good stewards of this area, the use of formaldehyde, the use of vaults that are considered seepage, all gets into the stream," said Francis Kau, who also opposes the project.

But others say the expansion is good for the community.

Mahealani Cyper, past president of the Koolaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club, said the organization’s support of the expansion “came down to we wanted to be buried near our families."

"If our families were buried at Hawaiian Memorial, we wanted there to be space for us and the next generations for us,” she said.

The heiau called Kawa’ewa’e is on cemetery property and the civic club also likes that Hawaiian Memorial plans to turn it into a cultural preserve.

But others worry protection of the 12th century heiau doesn’t go far enough.

The company's final environmental impact statement said the project would have beneficial long-term effect on water quality by reducing runoff.

“Hawaiian Memorial is deeply committed to working with the community," said Jay Morford, president Hawaiian Memorial Life Plan, in a statement.

“That is why we’ve drastically scaled back our cemetery plans, incorporated a 14.5-acre cultural preserve and will prohibit any future development on Hawaiian Memorial Park land through a conservation easement.”

“Without cemetery expansion, Oahu’s families will face a shortage of interment space as our population continues to age,” he added.

Next month, the Land Use Commission will meet to decide if a group of opponents will be allowed to participate as intervenors in a hearing over the project.

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