Oahu cemetery expansion onto conservation land debated

HONOLULU — The state Land Use Commission conducted a hearing on a contested plan to expand an Oahu cemetery onto forested conservation land.

The $29 million expansion would add 30,000 burial sites to the 79,000-plot Hawaiian Memorial Park cemetery.

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An affiliate of Texas-based Service Corp. International, which owns the cemetery in Kaneohe, submitted a survey to the commission indicating 64% of Oahu residents who were polled support the plan.

The March survey of 400 adults found that 29% of respondents were neutral and 7% opposed the project.

Sumner J. Waring III, Service Corp. chief operating officer, said in a May 1 letter to the commission that the project would provide job opportunities, increase community spending and help raise tax revenue for the city and state.

Community group Hui o Pikoiloa successfully opposed a previous Hawaiian Memorial expansion plan, which the commission ruled against in 2009.

The current plan would add additional land for burials and establish an easement to be held by a nonprofit trust protecting adjacent land from future development in perpetuity.

The plan also calls for a cultural preserve around a Native Hawaiian temple and measures to protect the habitat of an endangered native damselfly.

Tuesday’s hearing held via video conference included assessment of a burial supply-and-demand study produced by real estate firm CBRE Inc. for Service Corp.

CBRE valuation expert Tom Holliday said about 120,000 plots are needed on Oahu through 2040 to satisfy projected demand, but only 16,500 plots are available.

Grant Yoshimura, a member of Hui o Pikoiloa, said the supply assessment excludes 4,500 unsold plots at Hawaiian Memorial and ignores the option for customers to have up to two caskets or four urns in a single plot.

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The hearing was scheduled to resume Wednesday and extend to future dates before a decision is made.

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