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Backyard cemeteries: is this a land use issue?

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
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25,789
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61
W.Va. Man Wants to Be Buried in Back Yard
From the AP Wire June 22, 2004,

JUNIOR, W.Va. -- A man diagnosed with a terminal illness is fighting officials for the right to be buried in his back yard.

Dan Vest has emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The Vietnam veteran said after town officials found out about his wishes they passed an ordinance outlawing burials on personal property within city limits.

"(My family) built this house," Vest said. "This is where I was raised."

Vest said he plans to sue the city, but representatives from the Barbour County Circuit Clerk's office say nothing has not been filed to date.

"We have an ordinance that says you can't be buried in your back yard," said Mayor Gary A. Miller.

Miller said the ordinance recently went into effect. City officials were not available for comment Monday because of a state holiday.
 

SGB

Cyburbian
Messages
3,388
Points
26
Rather than fight the man over where I can get buried, I figure I'll just instruct my family to send my incinerated remains via "special delivery" through the local sewage treatment plant. :-\
 

Floridays

Cyburbian
Messages
769
Points
21
JNA said:
"We have an ordinance that says you can't be buried in your back yard," said Mayor Gary A. Miller.

Miller said the ordinance recently went into effect. City officials were not available for comment Monday because of a state holiday.


Interesting...I'm wondering WHEN this ordinance went into effect. Was it as "recently" as the date on which the guy filed the request? A re-active ordinance, so to speak? :-\
 

SGB

Cyburbian
Messages
3,388
Points
26
Floridays said:
Interesting...I'm wondering WHEN this ordinance went into effect. Was it as "recently" as the date on which the guy filed the request? A re-active ordinance, so to speak? :-\
The city apparently adopted the ordinance shortly after rumors of the gentleman's intent started getting out. No formal request was yet filed.
 

otterpop

Cyburbian
Messages
6,655
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28
This incident raises several things in my mind.

One would of course be when was the ordinance enacted and was it a reaction to his desire.

The second would be are there state statutes governing burial. I know in Montana that you can only be buried on your property or family property if the parcel is at least a minimum size. The purpose is to allow people to bury their family members on the family farm or ranch, but not in the back yard of their suburban lot.

Third, I would think burying someone in the yard could really hurt the resale value of the property. I certainly wouldn't want someone I don't know buried in my backyard.

Fourth, we as a society make a definite distinction between people and animals. For nearly a decade I kept the cremated remains of a beloved pet in a box, intending one day to bury him if and when I had a home of my own. This year we bought a house and good ole Blackjack was finally interred. We think nothing of putting our beloved pet in our yard, but not Uncle Joe.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
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6,544
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30
I have dealt with this issue several times. Back in California, we just had to point to the Cemetery Act of California, which wouldn't allow someone to buried in their backyard. It's a pretty common restriction.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
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34
I am all for allowing people to have a family plot if there is a large enough land area. It was very common until this century for farm families to have a small graveyard for their family members, and I think it can be a wonderful tradition that helps people to establish deep roots in a place. As Otterpop says, though, that place should not be a lot in a subdivision.

Landscape Architecture had a very interesting article on "natural burials" recently. It is sort of an organic approach to cemeteries. The body is not embalmed (no chemicals), it is wrapped in linen or a wood coffin, and is buried in a naturalized setting such as a prairie, woods, or savanna. There are generally no headstones, although people tend to place a rock on the spot, or plant a tree over the grave. I like the idea.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
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6,463
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29
My question would be: These local government officials must be conspiring with the CIC





The Cemetary Industrial Complex!
 

The One

Cyburbian
Messages
8,289
Points
30
Dead Man out Back

Reminds me of the guy who kept his Dead Dad or Granddad in the freezer in his backyard in Nederland, Colorado.
 

Maister

Chairman of the bored
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Moderator
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71
My advice to him...if he wants to be buried in the back yard and the city wants to pass an ordinance prohibiting it, he should put his wishes in his will (recorded & notarised) now before the ordinance goes into effect. Then he will at least have a good chance fighting the municipality in court. I think it would be likely that a court would rule the 'no back yard burials ordinance' an ex post facto law. At least it would give him a fighting chance.
 

SGB

Cyburbian
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3,388
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26
Maister said:
...he should put his wishes in his will (recorded & notarised) now before the ordinance goes into effect.
Too late. The ordinance has already been adopted.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
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20,173
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51
Big Easy King said:
The New Orleans BZA (Orleans Parish) would most likely grant him a variance.
I thought that you required burrial above ground.

I think that when a person dies, he should be burried in the manner he wants. I am going to do a normal burrial, but I am going to have my middle figer cut off, cremated, and the ashes mailed to a few people with a letter.
 
Messages
7,649
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29
[semi-troll] I think everyone should be cremated. We complain endlessly about sprawl of the built environment but what about the sprawl of cemetaries -- useless land that is kind of "frozen" and cannot be readily redeveloped, etc. And what about environmental/health issues? This guy is dying of some nasty medical condition and we want to bury him in the back yard where his rotting remains can leach into the ground water -- possibly spreading disease? We should start cremating everyone and using the ashes as fertilizer.[/semi-troll]
 

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
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18,313
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44
Bump

A gentleman in our county wants to bury is recently departed wife in his back yard. Our code is silent on the issue.

The question to our attorney: May a private person bury their relative on their property?

In my county the short answer is: If the property is less than 2 acres and it's a family cemetery, this is allowed if the owner obtains a burial transit permit through a licensed funeral director.

I think it's silly to not allow family burials on parcels larger than 2 acres. Oh well.
How about your jurisdictions? Ya'll have any regulations concerning this issue?



Scenario: A couple owns more the 2 acres. One of the spouses is terminally ill. Florida Statutes exempt the division of land to convey to a family member. A one acre plot is divided off the parent tract. The spouse dies, is buried on the one acre, and the will conveys the property back to the living spouse.... I see a loophole.
 
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mgk920

Cyburbian
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4,202
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26
The real problem is that should the family later sell the property and the new owner's plans for it conflict with the little cemetery. One can then see the land use issues involving developers assembling redevelopment sites around all over those tiny burial plots.

Mike
 

Jeff

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4,161
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27
^^yeah, how can you visit Uncle Joe if hes on someone else's property? Can they have him dug up later on? The future owners that is.
 

luckless pedestrian

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in Maine, we have family burial places everywhere and they are a protected land use - no buildings within 30', so by default you have to assured of a large enough lot to accommodate that setback along with the usual line setbacks -

but yeah, cremation is not a bad thing or the natural methods in LA magazine -

Jeff - we have a friend who purchased an old farm in the mid-coast area here in Maine about 20 years ago - every few years, this family pulls up and asks to go put flowers on the cemetery on his property that contains the remains of the original family there - it's very commonplace and you let them come onto the property and give them some respectful silence and space - in some weird way, it's kind of cool
 
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KSharpe

Cyburbian
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744
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19
I think its a bad idea. If I buy a lot where someone is buried, don't I have the right to dig him up and move him elsewhere? Besides that, rural areas (where theoretically, this option would be more palatable) are usually on individual well and septic systems. As time goes by, property is bought and sold, and the new well is dug two feet from a rotting corpse no one knows about....
 

Otis

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5,169
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29
It seems like this is why God gave us shovels and darkness. :a:
 

vagaplanner

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296
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10
It seems like this is why God gave us shovels and darkness. :a:

I'm thinking the same thing. Although I'm not encouraging their breaking the law, what if they just did it. Who would the city go after?...I guess the property owner, but what would the punishment be? $500 per day until they dug his a$$ up?
 

Richmond Jake

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The ass. county mgr (who's out of town the rest of the week), called me tonight and instructed me to attend a meeting tomorrow morning with the c/manager, building official (why?) and the county attorneys to discuss the situation. My thought is: we've spent too much time on this; bury the woman and move on!!

BTW, the attorneys think we should amend the zoning ordinance to require a CUP to entomb future dearly departeds. Right, a CUP requires a public hearing before the planning commission...given noticing requirements, that could take six (6) weeks. That cadaver is going to start to smell....HELLO!!!!
 

Chet

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In Wisconsin it is 100% legal to be buried on your own land. No local permit required. Think about the resale value though - creepy.
 

Richmond Jake

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Update from this morning's meeting. We convinced the lawyers not to amend the land development regulations (put more accurately, I told them I wouldn't do it). The head lawyer back-tracked from his memo of yesterday but I shoved it back in his face and explained we have no intention of addressing this sensitive issue in a public forum. Turns out the genesis of the complaint came from a funeral home director who saw it as a threat to his business of selling cemetery plots and associated services and products.

I guess we beat that issue to death. ;)
 

Queen B

Cyburbian
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3,178
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25
RELATED ARTICLE -

HEADLINE - Greeley couple discovers that path around home made of tombstones
http://www.summitdaily.com/article/20070925/NEWS/109250053

HIGHLIGHTS:
Maybe the guy that used to own it was a headstone maker and he had to practice his craft. What would you do with the left over.

We "Kind Of" have a family tradition about cremation remains. They are too creepy to keep around so on more than one occasion we have simply slipped over to the cemetary and have taken a good shovel full of dirt out, installed the ash and returned the divet. So I guess this is kind of opposite the question. I think you can here but I am uncertain about the acres required. We allow cemetaries in our subdivision regulations as a exemption from platting. I believe we make them get a Conditional Use Permit. Although I have never understood the conditional nature of the request.
 

JNA

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61
HEADLINE: Backyard burial ground a shock to homeowners
http://www.heraldonline.com/109/story/111761.html

HIGHLIGHTS:
"We knew the cemetery was behind us, but we had no idea there were grave sites within our property line."

People buying homes near the cemetery were told of its existence, and no graves were supposed to be within homeowners' property lines, according to Legacy Park developer Keith Bell.

But to build his fence and garden, Cameron would have to either move the graves or disturb them.

... there are laws that prohibit malicious desecration of a cemetery and a law that gives descendants access to cemeteries on private property.
What would you do ?

I think the best option was discussed in the article -
... deed the portion of their property containing graves over to the Legacy Park Homeowner's Association, which has been restoring the cemetery.
But would you be willing to give up the trees and shade?
 

mike gurnee

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3,066
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31
We have a family burial ground on a KY parcel. Earliest documented interment in 1818. My family owns the plot and has rights of ingress/egress through deed covenants. I would not recommend this in our more mobile society.

An alternative is cremation, with the ashes deposited under the old apple tree or where ever.
 

Cardinal

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Messages
10,080
Points
34
In another thread some time ago, I mentioned working with a community where a new cemetery was to be sited during the planning process. There is already a cemetery there that dates to before the Civil War. Records are not particularly good, and they had no idea where the people are buried. They used both radar and probes to find the remains, and a few were not where they were expected to be. This is pretty common, from what I have learned. If you buy next to a cemetery, you may want to have proof tht you are not buying a part of the burial ground.
 

superdragtn

Member
Messages
16
Points
1
I know this thread has been inactive for a few years but if anyone's still reading, I just dealt with this issue.

We had a person want to be buried in their backyard of a large lot. This is a primarily rural county. The county zoning resolution's definition for a cemetery doesn't distinguish between the number of plots, public or private. It just refers to a place where human remains are to be interned or buried. Thus, when it came up, I chose to treat it like a cemetery which requires site plan approval by the Planning Commission. Regardless of the rationality of that approach, the language in our zoning code was fairly clear (in my opinion) that this was the only option. Naturally, the family of the deceased didn't want to do a site plan nor get PC approval. Phone calls were made, influential people were rallied, and hence the planner was overruled by the attorney's office. The burial is moving forward absent any type of approval or permit from the county.

As a side note, in Tennessee, state law exempts private, family burial plots and those with a church from the regulations set by the state. However, it does not preempt local government's regulating said cemeteries. A lot of cities have regulations which prohibit burial in a backyard. Counties have fewer police powers, but often have such prohibitions in their zoning codes as a form of land use control.

To me there are a lot more broader issues involved than simply burying someone. A lot of it comes down to the size of the property, the location of the burial plots (imagine someone putting it in the front yard along a road or right next to their neighbor's property line). The other issue being that once the burial occurs, the family has perpetual right of access to it for now until the end of time. Likewise, absent any kind of permitting or record by the local government, its not inconceivable that over time someone may forget that there is a burial plot there. Imagine if the owner of the property lost it in bankruptcy or for failure to pay taxes or if all of the descendants were to pass away.

Another issue is what kind of impact it may have on the adjoining properties. Imagine walking out into your back yard and seeing your neighbor's deceased relative's burial plot everyday. Likewise, if you allow one burial plot as a "private, family burial" cemetery, what happens if the family then wants to place another and then another? At what point does it stop being a small family cemetery and become a larger land use issue?
 
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