Chief halts home work
A Kauai landowner, after getting permits, sought to build on an ancient burial ground
KAPAA, Kauai » Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry stepped into a six-year legal battle yesterday, stopping the construction of a Haena home set to be built on a Hawaiian burial ground.
Perry halted the work on the home, on an oceanfront parcel once owned by movie star Sylvester Stallone, saying that any work done on the property would violate state laws of grave desecration.
However, the owner of the property, Joseph Brescia, had clearance from nearly a half-dozen state and county agencies, including the Burial Council of Kauai and Niihau, the state Historic Preservation Division, the Kauai Planning Department and others.
"I now have no choice," Brescia said in a prepared statement faxed to the Star-Bulletin by his lawyer, Walton Hong. "I have done what I could after learning of the burials."
Thirty graves have been found on the small lot, which sits on Naue Point, just off Alealea Road.
But opponents of the construction say there could be many more unearthed if the house is built.
Perry did not return a call seeking comment.
The roughly 75 protesters who showed up to stop the construction workers from disturbing the graves yesterday morning declared the chief's decision a victory.
"It was very nice and peaceful," said activist Puanani Rodgers. "The construction guys were very cooperative ... and I want to thank them for all their consideration."
Brescia, however, said he was "disappointed" to hear of Perry's decision.
He filed an injunction in early June, asking the Circuit Court to keep the protesters from blocking construction after about a dozen people disrupted a blessing ceremony at the site June 6. It's unclear whether Perry will also be named in the lawsuit.
"At this time, my attorneys and I are proceeding with all necessary steps to continue construction in accordance with all of the government approvals received for the work," Brescia said in his statement.
Brescia's problems started in 2003, when his shoreline certification was challenged. After having it recertified, the planning commission imposed a setback from the shoreline that was more than what was required by law.
Brescia appealed to Circuit Court and won in 2005.
However, in 2007, after Brescia had approvals to build his home, the state Supreme Court overturned his Circuit Court win, saying that the setback originally imposed by the county should be made valid.
It was in 2007 that construction workers originally found the burials, court records indicate.
Brescia went through every state and local agency, and finally received approval to build his home in April, despite protests from native Hawaiians, who said the land was a cemetery and should be left alone.
Since April, a number of Hawaiian activists have camped out at the site and placed torches at the graves.
"We want to support, protect and preserve" the cemetery, Rodgers said.