(BIVN) – The alleged damaging of historic gravestones in the Puʻueo section of Hilo – a reported act that was once under state land board consideration for an enforcement action – was discussed at the Windward Planning Commission meeting on Thursday.
The Edmund C. Olson Trust is seeking to change zoning on land between Clem Akina Park and Dodo Mortuary, and is applying for a “State Land Use Boundary Amendment from Agricultural to Urban for 14.95 acres of land and a Change of Zone from an Agricultural – 20 acres (A-20a) and Open (O) to a Single-Family Residential – 10,000 square feet (RS-10) zoning district for approximately 14.95 acres of land and a Change of Zone from an Agricultural – 20 acres (A-20a) to a Family Agricultural – 1 acre (FA -1a) zoning district for approximately 24.73 acres of land.”
The Trust plans to develop 51 total lots on the parcels, including 49 habitable lots: 30 residential and 19 agricultural lots.
Part of the proposal involves setting aside a 2.11-acre lot to preserve a historic era cemetery, generally located behind Clem Akina Park.
In late 2017 / early 2018, the state accused the Trust of altering historic properties without a County-approved grading and grabbing permit. A state archaeologist “observed clear evidence that heavy equipment had been in the cemetery and that several headstones, including a crypt, had been damaged.”
According to planning consultant Sidney Fuke, representing the Olson Trust on the change of zone application, said the desecration of the graves was unintentional, and added that the matter has since been before the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD).
“The ball right now is in the state’s court and whatever the state said, then [the developers] will have to comply with,” Fuke said.
According to the County Planning Department, the Olson Trust agreed that prior to any more land alteration, interim mitigation measures would be undertaken at the historic cemetery site. Before final subdivision approval is granted, the developers would have to implement long-term mitigation measures.
“Whoever owns the cemetery lot will still be the developer,” said Fuke, “so the developer then has to decide on what he or she wants to do, whether they want to attempt to convey to the County, convey it to the community association within the subdivision, or to convey to some other entity.”
Fuke said an archaeological consultant has already been contracted to prepare a preservation plan.
“If you go up and down the coast, a lot of these plantation communities, you’re gonna find a lot of these cemeteries,” Fuke said.
“I don’t know how SHPD can get become involved without the Big Island Burial Council being involved,” said Jeno Enocencio during pubic comment, “as well as NAGPRA – and this is a federal act, North American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act – all these people got to be involved.”
The Windward Planning Commission gave the application a favorable recommendation.
The above video is part one of a three part series examining the plans for the new Puʻueo development.