(BIVN) – The Hawai‘i Land Board meets on Friday and on the agenda is an enforcement action against the Edwin C. Olson Trust No. 2 for the alleged damaging of historic gravestones in the Puueo section of Hilo.
The Trust is accused of altering historic properties without a County-approved grading and grabbing permit, and the fine could reach as high as $64,960, according to the recommendation found in the submittal for the January 12 meeting.
No later than March 27, 2016, authorities allege, privately owned historic properties located in Pu‘u‘eo Ahupua‘a of South Hilo “were injured and altered during the course of land alteration activities… These activities consisted of mechanical impacts to at least four (4) individual historic properties and to a historic cemetery itself.”
From the BLNR documents:
submittal for Jan. 12, 2018
On March 27, 2016 in response to a request from the landowner the Edwin C. Olson Trust’s No. 2 (hereafter referred to as “Olson Trust”) representative, Mr. John Cross, Mr. Sean Nāleimaile, State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) Hawai‘i Island Archaeologist conducted a site inspection of the subject property, which is a historic cemetery, which meets the statutory definition of a historic property. Mr. Cross had requested the site visit to obtain SHPD input on the disposition of the cemetery, in connection with a County of Hawai‘i after-the-fact grubbing permit application. At the time of this visit, Mr. Nāleimaile observed clear evidence that heavy equipment had been in the cemetery and that several headstones, including a crypt had been damaged. Mr. Nāleimaile also observed that adjacent parcels had also been subject to recent land clearing activities.
Prior to the SHPD site visit, the County of Hawai‘i Department of Public Works inspector, Mr. Conrad Alicuben, visited the parcel and witnessed an excavator on site. Mr. Alicuben contacted the property owner and informed the land owner of the permit violation.
Investigators say they observed damage to the headstones found in the eastern part of the cemetery, damage to a large crypt, and damage to burial sites – both identified and unidentified, previously.
Nāleimaile returned in September of 2016 and found more land clearing in an area adjacent to the cemetery, and another undocumented burial site had been impacted. At that time, state investigators contend, a County stop work order was in effect and no work was supposed to occur on the parcel until a grubbing permit was issued.
“I think primarily there may have been damage over a long period of time,” said Glenn Escott, the Scientific Consultant Services archaeologist hired to study the Olson lands, accompanied the investigators to the cemetery.
“I’ve spoken to different people who recall damage in the past,” Escott told us in a December interview. “Primarily the headstones, I think, had been knocked over.”
“We’re still waiting. The State Historic Preservation Division has yet to review and approve the archaeological study documenting this site. I don’t know the DLNR’s process, or the enforcement side of it,” Escott said. “I know on the mainland it’s not uncommon for a cemetery to be moved. That’s not the case here.”
Escott said that there are folks who have Hawaiian ancestry in that cemetery. “No iwi were ever exposed, no iwi were present on the ground surface or visible,” Escott said. “The headstones themselves were knocked over. There was also some information provided that some of the burials were removed by family members and then re-interred, I think, at Homelani Park.”
According to DLNR analysis:
submittal for Jan. 12, 2018
Based on the facts and circumstances of this case, the property owner did not comply with County requirements to obtain permits prior to initiation of ground disturbing activities and persisted with those activities after being directed to stop by the County and being notified by SHPD of damage to historic properties. Furthermore, the continued activities resulted in additional damage to historic properties, even in areas the property owner advised SHPD that there were no plans for ground disturbing activities as part of the project. Having not obtained the required permits prior to starting work, the property owner by-passed SHPD review.
Despite having been directed to stop work by the County, the property owner allowed work to continue. Likewise, after consulting SHPD regarding the historic Amauulu Camp Cemetery and being aware of damage to historic properties resulting from prior activities, the property owner did not halt activity. These persistent activities resulted in alteration or damage to additional historic properties. The land owner’s actions resulted in damage to at least five (5) historic properties. This is a violation under HRS §6E-ll(c). The property owner’s failure to comply with these statues and rules should result in a penalty of $10,000.00 per burial site, and $10,000.00 for the impacts to the Amauulu Camp Cemetery as a whole.
In considering the amount of damages to recommend, the SHPD regards the fact that the Olson Trust was aware of and attempting to locate the cemetery and thatit self-reported the initial damages as mitigating factors.
The SHPD considers as significantly aggravating factors that by January 2016 and certainly no later than March 2, 2016, the Olson Trust was aware of the presence of the cemetery on the property. Furthermore, no later than March 8, 2016, the Olson Trust had located the Cemetery and was actively engaged in activities to identify the boundary of the cemetery. By the time the Olson Trust actions that damaged the historic property occurred, the Olson Trust was both aware of the cemetery and had located it.