Developers violate agreement
Hokulia developers resumed some construction work at the project earlier this year without hiring an archaeological monitor and in violation of several agreements and preservation plans, according to a July letter from the state Historic Preservation Division.
Development officials are back on track to resolving the issues, though, Hawaii Island Archaeological Branch Chief Theresa Donham said Tuesday.
Donham’s five-page letter to The Club at Hokulia General Manager John Shaw outlined a myriad of issues with the Hokulia property. The division made an initial site visit after fielding complaints about land clearing activities, the letter said. During a May visit, two SHPD employees noted Hokulia was clearing lots using an excavator without an archaeological monitor on site. The excavator was also used to clear vegetation within the buffer zones of historic properties and burial sites. An approved burial treatment plan required clearing of nonnative vegetation be done with minimal use of mechanized, hand-held equipment. Neither of those actions comply with the approved plans.
In addition to the land clearing violations, meetings with Hokulia representatives “have indicated that (a) host of historic preservation issues remain unresolved,” she wrote. “SHPD has become aware of multiple burial sites that have been impacted by project activities and left in an unresolved and inappropriate condition for many years.”
Other issues include a failure to submit archaeological reports and annual reports, as well as Hokulia officials failing to comply with burial treatment plans, some of which officials had challenged but not sought alternatives, the letter said.
Donham said Tuesday Hokulia representatives have continued to meet with SHPD officials and are taking steps to remedy the violations. No work has taken place since the meetings in May, when an SHPD representative asked Hokulia officials to stop until further notice.
“They seem sincere,” Donham said. “They intend to get back on track. … They’re definitely committed to making things right.”
Shaw did not respond to a message seeking comment left Tuesday afternoon.
SHPD followed its initial May visit with another site visit in June. During that visit, Donham observed historic properties that had not been included on any maps. A majority of those sites were agricultural in nature, she wrote.
“Many of these sites were directly impacted by the land clearing activities; the rocks that comprise these features display recent scarring from the steel tracks of the excavator, and from the mechanical flair attachment,” Donham wrote.
Iwi are being stored in a trailer, and have been for years, despite plans for reinterment, the letter said. Another set of remains, discovered in a pile of dirt, remains in that pile, covered only by a tarp.
Donham acknowledged that some of the problems predated the development’s current leadership. Hokulia underwent several changes of ownership because of financial problems, and is currently in bankruptcy. Investment firm Sun Kona LLC announced last month it had submitted a reorganization plan to revive the development.
“SHPD realizes that much of the delay in resolving the aforementioned historic preservation issues is the result of the effective shut down of Hokulia’s project activities during the economic recession, which is a factor beyond your control,” Donham wrote. “However, SHPD is disappointed that Hokulia has chosen to start up project operations on a path of noncompliance rather than resolving the outstanding issues prior to moving forward.”