Kahaluu developers seek accord over graves

Developers of a proposed timeshare and single-family home development just above Alii Drive say they’re working with families concerned about graves on the site and preparing a revised cultural impact statement before proceeding with their plans.

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Developers of a proposed timeshare and single-family home development just above Alii Drive say they’re working with families concerned about graves on the site and preparing a revised cultural impact statement before proceeding with their plans.

Bill Moore, a planning consultant for Towne Development, told the newly established county Cultural Resources Commission that once an agreement is reached with the families and the revised impact statements are prepared, they’ll be back before the commission.

“I don’t expect them to be happy, but they’ll be satisfied,” Moore said of the pending agreement with family members.

Towne Development late last year issued a draft environmental assessment calling for 321 timeshare units in three-story buildings, as well as 17 single-family homes, on about 43 acres, spanning a relatively long, narrow area above houses fronting Alii Drive but remaining below the proposed Alii Parkway corridor.

Commissioners asked Moore about a Sept. 20 letter from the State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources expressing concerns about the proposed development and asking for a site visit. Moore said many of the 58 identified archaeological features on the site are not graves, but are rocks that were piled up in the process of clearing land for farming.

The developers have not yet purchased the land from Kamehameha Investment Corp. because they are trying to see how the project would work, first. The project, to be located in the county General Plan’s Keauhou Resort Node, has been in the works for decades.

“We understand there’s no guarantees,” Moore said. “We’re trying to follow all the rules out there and then some.”

The project lies within the Kahaluu Historic District, established in the 1970s and listed on both federal and state historic registers. Being on the federal register was the trigger for the environmental assessment, but Moore told West Hawaii Today previously there are no other regulations related to the designation that would impact the project. The draft assessment mentions the historic registers just once.

The Cultural Resources Commission was created by a 2008 county ordinance, but it didn’t come into being until last year, after former County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong pushed for its creation.

The commission’s duties, among others, is to advise government agencies on historic preservation, review projects affecting historical locations, and establish a county historic preservation planning process. The nine-member panel includes people with backgrounds in Hawaiian culture, history, architecture and archaeology.

Willy Kahulamu, who lives on family land, and is the caretaker for a number of burials on the project site, told West Hawaii Today last year that a cultural consultant asked to see some of the burial sites and Kahulamu said no.

“My grandfather covered the graves,” he said. “Now we’re supposed to say where they are?”

Such locations are considered to be sacred sites, not to be shown or shared with the general public.

Commission Vice Chairman Boone Morrison noted that community attitudes have changed greatly since developers began envisioning massive projects along shorelines and other culturally significant areas in the 1970s and ’80s.

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“The problem we find is the old fellows recognized a great site when they see it and they wanted it,” Morrison said, adding the same thing then happened with the newer folks.

The main thing, Morrison said, is for sensitivity among developers and “doing what is pono.”

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