For Immediate Release: January 24, 2023
Press release by:
Shane M. Sinenci, Councilmember
Maui County Council
Council to consider veto override of bill to establish interactive cultural overlay map
HĀNA, Hawaiʻi—The council will consider overriding former Mayor Michael P. Victorino’s veto of a bill to establish a cultural overlay map and improved permit review process on Friday at 9 a.m., Councilmember Shane M. Sinenci announced today.
Sinenci said he introduced Bill 154, CD1, FD2 (2022) to prevent the desecration of burials and cultural resourcs that occurs when development is done without proper planning. Preventing desecration will also reduce lawsuits, and the new permit review terms are intended to speed up the review process, he said.
“The current system does not serve anyone, and burials are regularly disturbed, even after undergoing a lengthy state review process,” Sinenci said. “Establishment of a cultural overlay map will streamline that process by alerting developers and property owners of potential burials and cultural sites prior to purchasing and developing a property.”
Sinenci said the new mapping process will allow users to see historic information, including the locations of pre- and post-contact events, such as battles, the signing of the Māhele and the drafting of the Hawaiian Constitution. Mapping resources will also include manaʻo gleaned from Hawaiian language sources, including place names and their meanings, traditional knowledge of the environment, traditional forms of oral history, historic maps, and documents, photographs and audio and video clips of specific parcels or areas, he said.
Sinenci said the interactive map would also provide access to environmental data sets including geology, hydrology, soil types, flood zones, wetlands, tsunami zones, bathometry, topography, environmental zones, land commission awards and land grants, State Historic Preservation Division data on known cultural sites, burials, and burial preserves and sensitive data publicly shown in approximation.
This information would be used to create sensitivity designations and allow for the principal archaeologist to review land use and development permits to avoid the cumbersome state review processes for projects with no concerns, he said.
Victorino’s veto message said the criteria used to determine if a site has a sensitivity designation are subjective and overly broad. However, Sinenci explained that the criteria used in the bill are the same as those established by state law and used by the State Historic Preservation Division to determine if a site is culturally sensitive. The map is importing cultural site data based upon the state’s sensitivity criteria, so we needed to reference those criteria in our bill.
“The former mayor also cited concerns about giving the principal archeologist authority over projects and establishing regulations prior to establishing the map, but the bill only allows her to provide comments on permit applications to Department Directors and doesn’t add any regulations,” Sinenci said. “Only directors are authorized to add project conditions. The purpose of the map and the archeologist’s review is purely educational and mirrors her role in county projects.”
Sinenci explained that “County archeologist Dr. Janet Six has been working with departments reviewing county projects for the past several years, and this process has served to prevent project delays, streamline the permitting process and prevent project construction delays that occur when burials are accidently uncovered.”
During a recent council committee meeting, Department of Public Works Director Jordan Molina referred to Six as a “unicorn” and asset for her ability to facilitate projects while also protecting burials and cultural sites. She was also lauded by the Department of Land and Natural Resources Archaeology Branch Chief Susan A. Lebo as “enhancing and facilitating their ability to do their duties which speeds things up.”
Sinenci said the bill is the result of a two-year process, including 14 public meetings and collaboration with the Department of Planning, the Department of Public Works, the county principal archeologist, the State Historic Preservation Division and the community. The three island planning commissions, the Cultural Resource Commission, and the Hana Advisory Committee all unanimously supported the bill.
The map and permit review process by the principal archeologist would reduce accidental burial discoveries and create accountability, Sinenci said. Under the current system, accidental burial discoveries made during project bulldozing are exempt from the island burial council approval process, he said.
“The current system has created an incentive for developers to skip due diligence,” Sinenci said. “We encourage everyone who is developing property to hold themselves accountable and do their own due diligence until the County is able to provide this much needed information.”
For more information, please contact the Office of Council Services at (808) 270-7838.