Company looks to expand Kaneohe cemetery, add housing subdivision
Opponents worry about flooding and environmental impact
STORY SUMMARY »
Service Corp. International, the Texas-based owner of Hawaiian Memorial Park, has asked the state to reclassify conservation lands as urban to expand the cemetery with an adjoining residential subdivision.
The petition, which must be evaluated by the State Land Use Commission, has met community opposition from Kaneohe residents who live near the cemetery and others who want to preserve the rural landscape.Opposition has led to the creation of a Neighborhood Board subcommittee and a citizen's opposition group called Hui O' Pikoiloa.
If the state approves this petition, SCI will build on an additional 56 acres of their property, adding burial sites, four one-story mausoleums, drainage and retention areas, internal roadways and 20 home lots.
A company representative said that building a residential subdivision in conjunction with a cemetery is a business model successfully used by SCI all over the world.
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Despite community opposition, the owner of the Hawaiian Memorial Park in Kaneohe has petitioned the state to reclassify conservation lands to expand the cemetery with an adjoining 20-lot residential subdivision.
Service Corp. International, a Texas-based multi-national company which owns Hawaiian Memorial Park, as well as other graveyards and funeral homes across the world, has said that it will soon exhaust its available supply of Kaneohe burial plots and needs to expand its 80-acre cemetery to meet future demands.
The company has petitioned the State Land Use Commission to reclassify approximately 56.6 acres of vacant conservation lands as urban. The lands in question are situated at Hopenui, Kawaewae and Kalokoai, Kaneohe, Koolau Poko.
If the state approves this petition, Service Corp. International will develop additional burial sites, four one-story mausoleums, drainage and retention areas and internal roadways on 33.8 acres of the property, said Scott Ezer, a principal with Helber, Hastert and Fee Planners Inc., which represents SCI.
Approximately 6.4 acres near the Pohai Nani Retirement Home will be converted into a residential development, while 1.1 acres will be set aside to preserve historic sites, Ezer said. The remaining 15.3 acres will be revegetated, he said.
To go forward with the project, the developer also will need to prepare and Environmental Impact Statement and obtain an amendment to the Koolau Poko Sustainable Communities Plan from the City and County of Honolulu.
"We are looking at about 12 to 18 months just to get through this portion," Ezer said, adding that its unlikely groundbreaking on the first phase of the project would take place before 2010 or 2011.
While some might think that building a residential subdivision in conjunction with a cemetery would be unique, Ezer said that it's a business model successfully used by SCI all over the world.
"It's not unusual for cemetery developers to look at their properties with an eye toward being able to divest some of it to help offset development costs for their core mission," Ezer said. "Cemetery plots don't sell as quickly nor are they worth as much as residential lots."
In other instances, SCI has successfully used residential development to enhance business, he said.
Stephany Sofos, an Oahu-based real estate analyst and appraiser, said that residential properties that are located near cemeteries on Oahu, such as the Nuuanu Brookside Condominiums and Craigside Condomiums, appear to fare just as well in the marketplace.
"I haven't seen a difference in the appraisals," she said. "Some people would find it problematic, but I don't. In today's world, a lot of people would appreciate the open space."
However, the plan has not been popular with Kaneohe residents. Of the more than 250 nearby residents, concerned community members and political leaders who came to a summer meeting to discuss the project, the vast majority were staunchly opposed to it, said Kris DeRego, who chairs the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board subcommittee on the project.
"The Neighborhood Board is trying to get everyone to sit down and talk it out," DeRego said. "We don't want this to be resolved through legal action."
While the project subcommittee will continue to meet monthly, DeRego said that members are unlikely to make any recommendations until after they have reviewed the developer's EIS.
In the meantime, concerned residents have even formed their own community opposition group, Hui O Pikoiloa, which is dedicated to preserving the Kaneohe-facing Mahinui mountainside and maintaining the Kawa Stream watershed.
Those in opposition have raised a variety of concerns about the project, including fears that it would destroy the scenic landscape, increase flooding, damage the Kawa Stream watershed and affect runoff into Kaneohe Bay. They also have said Pikoiloa residents would face increased exposure to pesticide, fertilizers and herbicides as well as crime and traffic.
Drainage concerns are among those cited most often, said Patty Yamashiro-Hironaka, the vice-chair of the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board.
Neighboring residents of the cemetery already face extensive damages from drainage and lack of infrastructure, said Yamashiro-Hironaka, who owns Yamashiro Building Supply, a hardware store across the street from the houses that surround the cemetery.
"I know what these people are buying," she said. "It's stuff to prevent their homes from flooding."