Please remember that anything on this webside is not official information nor is it anything more than the website's opinion or perception of what actually happened.
CEMETERY  COMMITTEE  REVIVED  AGAIN:  Only to have Referendum Question #3 answered "No, do not have Selectmen pursue P&Z OK..."

LANDMARK N.Y.C. CEMETERY example of one kind of historic property...Weston has history, too.  A Planning and Zoning issue, as well?  QUESTION:  Do you dig up your relatives when you move - or is this one of those "quiet title" matters?  Obviously, if P&Z gets involved, you must get a special permit, file a map, issue a bond (in perpituity?)...this property's basement a private cemetery?

C.G.S. Sec.19a:
Planners Bookstore:  PLANNING FOR CEMETERIES:  PLANNING COMMISSIONERS JOURNAL #64, FALL 2006 (just first page free)

Truth stranger than fiction
A Project to Turn Corpses Into Compost
APRIL 13, 2015

Cullowhee, N.C. — The body of the tiny 78-year-old woman, gray hair falling over stiffened shoulders, was brought to a hillside at Western Carolina University still clad in a blue hospital gown and chartreuse socks.

She was laid on a bed of wood chips, and then more were heaped atop her. If all goes as hoped, the body will turn into compost.

It is a startling next step in the natural burial movement. Even as more people opt for interment in simple shrouds or biodegradable caskets, urban cemeteries continue to fill up. For the environmentally conscious, cremation is a problematic option, as the process releases greenhouse gases.

Armed with a prestigious environmental fellowship, Katrina Spade, a 37-year-old Seattle resident with a degree in architecture, has proposed an alternative: a facility for human composting.

The idea is attracting interest from environmental advocates and scientists. The woman laid to rest in wood chips is a first step in testing how it would work.

“Composting makes people think of banana peels and coffee grounds,” Ms. Spade said. But “our bodies have nutrients. What if we could grow new life after we’ve died?”

Story in full:

Probate judge offers free Tuesday night seminars beginning April 22
By The Forum Staff on April 17, 2014

Probate Judge Lisa Wexler, who is providing free educational seminars on Tuesdays this month and in May and June, will begin them on April 22 with the topic of What Happens When You Die With A Will.

The seminars take place on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. at Westport Town Hall, Room 100. The public is invited.

Also this month, on April 29, is the topic Changing Your Name.

Next month: May 6, Mental Illness and the Probate Court;

May 13, Your Rights as a Beneficiary of an Estate;

May 20, Your Responsibilities as a Fiduciary – Executor or Administrator or Trustee;

May 27, What Does a Conservator Do? Conservator of the Estate vs. Conservator of the Person.

On June 3, the topic is Intellectually Disabled Kids – Guardians & Conservators;

and June 17, it is What Happens When You Die Without a Will.
Many Cemeteries Damaged, but Green-Wood Bore the Brunt of the Storm
November 25, 2012, 1:00 am

Obelisks that stood upright for generations at Green-Wood Cemetery, perpetuating the memories of the Strong and Hallett and Wallace families, hit the ground at crazy angles. The angel guarding the Lloyd family plot lost its head, an arm and the tip of its wing. The headstone of an 18-year-old boy, overturned by a falling pin oak, rests upside down beside its pedestal. "Thy will be done," it says.

Hurricane Sandy ran roughly through cemeteries around New York City, but it devastated Green-Wood in Brooklyn, a designated National Historic Landmark. High winds destroyed or badly damaged at least 292 of the mature trees that lend so much beauty to the picturesque grounds - oak, maple, beech, linden, pine, tulip, cherry and Bradford pear.

Because many trees and branches remain where they fell on Oct. 29, cemetery officials have not had the chance to assess how many monuments, headstones and ornamental fences were crushed, shattered or overturned. Certainly, dozens were damaged.

Operators of other major cemeteries in New York -- including Woodlawn in the Bronx, Trinity in Manhattan, Calvary in Queens, and Cypress Hills in Brooklyn and Queens -- also reported downed trees and some structural damage, but nothing of the magnitude of Green-Wood's loss.

Richard J. Moylan, the president of Green-Wood, said he had never witnessed such destruction in his 40 years at the cemetery. He estimated the clean-up would cost at least $500,000. Much of the clearing work is being performed by the cemetery's own grounds crews, who are working six-day weeks. Mr. Moylan said he did not know yet how he would pay all the recovery costs.

The storm apparently spared the resting places of Green-Wood's most famous occupants - Leonard Bernstein, Louis Comfort Tiffany and William M. Tweed among them - though a falling London plane came close to the grave of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and a beech fell to earth not far from the grave of William Poole, the 19th-century gang leader better known as Bill the Butcher.

A palisade of pin oaks along a cemetery road called Cypress Avenue proved especially vulnerable. They stood at the base of the terminal moraine, a glacial ridge that runs like a spine through Long Island, and were completely exposed.

"The wind just seems to have had free rein in the flat area," said Art Presson, the superintendent of grounds operations at Green-Wood, as he took Mr. Moylan on a four-hour inspection tour last Tuesday. (With shoulders slumped as he took in the wreckage, Mr. Moylan managed a thin smile and said, "This is why I don't leave the office.")

Green-Wood's historical counterpart in the Bronx, Woodlawn Cemetery, lost 35 trees, perhaps most poignantly an enormous pendant silver linden near the Jerome Avenue entrance. Twenty-five trees lost major limbs. Susan Olsen, the director of historical resources, said that one obelisk was shattered and one statue was broken in half.

Cypress Hills Cemetery, on the Brooklyn-Queens line, lost about a dozen trees. Thirty or more trees suffered significant limb damage. Frank Lally, the office manager, said it appeared that no monuments were seriously damaged.

An almost identical report came from Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan: a dozen trees lost and no significant damage to monuments. Linda Hanick, the chief spokeswoman for Trinity Church at the head of Wall Street, which runs the uptown cemetery, said 13 trees were seriously damaged.

Joseph Zwilling, the chief spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, said that all four archdiocesan cemeteries in New York City and Westchester and Rockland Counties, including Calvary in Queens, had fallen trees and damaged headstones.

As for meeting clean-up and restoration costs, Mr. Moylan said, "Unfortunately, we do not believe there are many options." Insurance proceeds, if any, will be minimal, he said. A newly acquired wood chipper is being carried as an advance against next year's capital budget.

"The monuments are legally not ours, so we do not have an insurable interest," Mr. Moylan said. "Yet we feel we have a moral obligation to make the repairs as best as possible." He and Ms. Olsen, at Woodlawn, said they were likely to take advantage of professional help offered by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

"Some private donors have already made some small contributions," Mr. Moylan said, "but with the amount of suffering out there, we have not made much of an effort to solicit funds. In fact, we have been assisting a local synagogue and a local church in transporting food and supplies to hard-hit neighborhoods."

If there is good news, it is that Green-Wood's 478 acres are so rich in natural and architectural treasures that many vistas were left untouched or scarcely disturbed. About 7,700 trees came through, including delicate-looking willows and Japanese maples. New trees are being planted constantly.

But there is no denying the cumulative and disheartening effect of recent storms, including the October 2011 snowstorm that burdened trees with heavy snow while they were still in leaf.

"The last three years have been one weather event after the next, world-gone-mad kind of stuff," Mr. Presson said. "By far, this was the worst."

PLUS correction of the name of a tree not included

Busway construction through Fairview Cemetery in New Britain

Blessing or Boondoggle?

by Hugh McQuaid | Jul 13, 2012 4:40pm

The New Britain-Hartford busway is happening. Construction crews are working on it across the state. But that hasn’t stopped a group of Republican lawmakers from calling reporters to raise objections at every turn, and the Malloy administration seems to be growing tired of it.

The latest objection comes from New Britain where the busway route passes through Fairview Cemetery over an old Amtrak right of way. Trees had grown up on the abandoned rail line and crews were brought in to remove them. The work brought construction equipment within a few feet of the grave sites.

It prompted Candice Hewins, a New Britain resident with family buried at Fairview, to pen a letter to Sen. Joe Markley, a constant opponent of the busway project. Hewins said the busway will disrupt the “eternal rest” of her grandparents and uncle. Markley’s staff invited reporters to tour the cemetery and listen to the concerns of Markley and other Republican lawmakers.

It wasn’t the first such event. In June, Republicans set up a press conference for the owner of an auto repair shop in Newington, who was unhappy with the state’s acquisition of part of the business’s property to complete the project.

In all likelihood it won’t be the last time Markley and Republican Reps. Rob Sampson and Whit Betts engage the media on the busway topic.

“People are going to realize as time goes on just how intrusive this project is going to be,” Markley said Friday.

But the governor’s administration and the Department of Transportation seem tired of defending a project that’s already been approved and set in motion.

Asked to comment on the project’s impact on the cemetery, one Transportation Department spokesman said he couldn’t help and abruptly hung up the phone. Another DOT spokesman was willing to defend the project, but Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior communications adviser, said the administration is “puzzled” by the media’s continued attention to Markley.

“Sen. Markley is an elected official and he has the right to do whatever he chooses to do. But this project is moving forward now,” Occhiogrosso said. “... It seems a little silly that at least once a week he has some sort of event and a story or two gets written and there’s really no news.”

The project was fully vetted and the subject of several public hearings where people had the opportunity to voice their concerns, he said. Now it’s going forward whether Markley likes it or not, Occhiogrosso said.

Even with it going forward, Markley, Betts and Sampson have persistently attacked it as a waste of money for a transportation option no one will use. Standing near grave site a few feet from where the rapid transit bus route will someday pass, Markley said the dead are now being disturbed by the project.

“It’s even interfering with the peace of the grave, the one thing one counts on,” he said.

Kevin Nursick, a Transportation Department spokesman, said the department and the contractors used to clear the trees went to great lengths to make sure the cemetery was respected and nothing was damaged. If sawdust from the tree clearing landed on headstones, someone was careful to dust it off at the end of the day, he said.

“We even had protocol established if a funeral was taking place we would stop work a half hour before it started and would not commence work until a half hour after it ended,” Nursick said.

“We understand that loved ones are buried there, including some family members of people who worked on the tree crew,” he said.

Proponents of the project cite the several thousand jobs it’s creating in the state’s badly ailing construction industry. Ed Reilly of the Hartford Building Trades Council said the administration isn’t the only group of people tired of hearing about the anti-busway events.

“We’ve had 40 percent unemployment in the construction industry for years. These constant assaults are aggravating us too,” he said. “I’ve got people with no income, people who couldn’t heat their homes in the winter. It’s that bad and people have got to understand that.”

The busway project is expected to create 3,000 jobs over several years, something Reilly calls “a blessing” for the construction industry. He said it will also help the poor and disadvantaged have access to transportation and even educational opportunities in New Britain. Reilly said he’s grown frustrated with busway opponents.

“After awhile, I have to say to myself, ‘Why don’t they care?’ Not everyone’s pocket is full of money,” he said.

Construction workers even showed up at one of the lawmakers’ anti-busway press conference in April to boo at them.

But the busway opponents argue it’s not a personal crusade on their part, they’re just working on behalf of upset constituents.

“On a daily basis we’re being asked to do whatever we can to stop this busway,” Betts said.

State Will Continue Regulating Funeral Homes, Retracts Earlier Statement
The Hartford Courant
6:09 PM EDT, August 5, 2011


The state Department of Public Health said Friday that it will continue licensing funeral homes, funeral directors and embalmers, saying an announcement this week that it would no longer do so was "inaccurate."

"While the DPH is streamlining processes and reallocating resources in response to budget cuts, it has no plans to stop licensing and inspecting funeral homes, funeral directors or embalmers," the agency said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

On Monday, the department said announced that it was deregulating the funeral home profession as part of a proposed $20 million budget cut, a move that also would stop regulation of college infirmaries and some clinics. It said licensed professionals in those places would still be subject to health department oversight.

"[W]e are gratified to see a retraction from [the DPH]," the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association said in a statement on Friday. "This decision is in the best interest of funeral directors statewide and the families we serve."

The health department statement said that, if it decides to make changes in licensing procedures in the future, it will meet first with the funeral directors group.

The department's funeral and embalmer examining board has taken disciplinary action against more than 40 funeral homes, directors and embalmers in the past three years. In the past, some funeral home operators have been disciplined, fined or banished from the profession for such transgressions as cremating the wrong body, reselling top-tier coffins that had already been bought by families, switching coffins after families left a grave site and mishandling trust funds containing thousands of dollars for prepaid funerals.

State health department to scrap funeral licenses
Homes, embalmers targeted in sketchy plan to pare budget
By Judy Benson Day Staff Writer
Article published Aug 2, 2011

The state Department of Public Health announced a series of staff and program reductions Monday, including one that came as a surprise to people working in one of the most recession-proof businesses.

In a news release, the department announced it was eliminating state licenses for funeral homes and funeral directors and embalmers as well as for college infirmaries and some types of clinics. The facilities will still be subject to public-health regulations and enforcement.

The news release did not specifically explain how the elimination of the licenses would save the state money, nor did it provide details on how the change would be implemented.

"DPH will focus investigations staff and resources on professions with the most impact on the public's health," department spokesman William Gerrish said in an email in response to questions. "The department is currently working on implementing its budget reduction plan and more details will become available."

The Connecticut Funeral Directors Association learned of the change Monday when the news release was issued, said Pasquale Folino, the association's vice president and director at Thomas Neilan & Sons Funeral Home in New London. He said individual directors and embalmers pay $110 to the state annually for licenses, and funeral homes pay an annual licensing fee of $90 and an annual state inspection fee of $90.

"We're not sure what it means, and how they're going to implement this," he said of the license elimination. "We've contacted DPH and asked for a meeting. We're trying to get some clarity."

He said the association had no problems with the current system.

"The system that's been in place works," he said.

In its news release, the department said it was cutting a total of $20 million over two years through layoffs, retirements and elimination of vacant positions as well as through improved efficiency. In his email response, Gerrish said 33 staff will be laid off, seven vacant positions will be eliminated and 15 additional staff members will be retiring. The department currently has 523 state-funded staff positions.

"We are committed to minimizing the impact of these reductions and ensuring that core public health services continue to be available to people who need them the most," Dr. Jewel Mullen, public health commissioner, said in the DPH release.

Among other changes:

• Children covered by private insurance who need blood tests for lead levels will be tested by private laboratories. The department will continue to provide the tests for uninsured children.

• Because of fewer staff, more time will be required for the department to review applications for new community drinking water wells and water supply plans.

• An online licensing system, now used for child care providers, will be expanded to all professions licensed by the department. The streamlined system will also make more information easily available to the public.

"A single system will be more efficient, and DPH will no longer have to manage multiple databases and their associated maintenance costs," Gerrish said.

“Unfortunately, my colleagues on the Board of Selectmen asked the wrong question regarding the cemetery” - a comment from Selectman Gilbert
Weston referendum results: Both budgets pass, cemetery question fails
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, 20 April 2011 10:01

Weston voters approved the 2011-12 town and school operating budgets, while a question about a town cemetery was defeated at the referendum on Thursday, April 14.  A total of 885 voters, or 13.5% of Weston’s electorate, cast their ballots at the Weston Middle School polling place.  The final votes were: 697 voting in favor of the $11,184,216 town operating budget, with 186 opposed.  For the education budget, 574 voted in favor of the $45,166,337 school operating budget, with 308 opposed.

The third question asked if the town should refer a cemetery proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and appropriate up to $30,000 for the required documentation to do so. The vote was 338 voting yes, while 536 voted no.

Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she was pleased that both the town and school operating budgets passed. “These budgets were carefully vetted by the Board of Finance and the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM), and I’m glad that those budgets were upheld by a machine vote,” she said.

Selectman Dan Gilbert said the vote was clear “the town supports both the Board of Selectmen’s and Board of Education’s budgets.”

Phil Schaefer, chairman of the Weston Board of Education, was also happy with the budget results. “The board is obviously pleased and thankful for the strong public support of our 2011-12 operating budget, a 1.05% increase, which is one of the lowest increases of school systems in the region,” he said.

As to the defeat of the cemetery question, Ms. Weinstein said she now considers the proposal to build a town-owned interdenominational cemetery on the Fromson-Strassler property a dead issue.

“Regarding the cemetery, the town has spoken. My heart goes out to those who have fought for it for 20+ years, but I believe we finally have closure on this issue. I’d like to thank the past and present members of the Cemetery Committee for all of their hard work on the town’s behalf,” she said.

Longtime cemetery proponent Hal Mathews was disappointed, noting that the cemetery had the potential to make money for the town.

“What can one say after 21 years of a failed mission? The right kind of leadership could have made the difference in achieving this essential need for a town cemetery, but those in charge ignored that responsibility, avoiding that basic reality for those in need,” Mr. Mathews said.

Dr. Gilbert said while it was clear the town didn’t want to spend $30,000 on a planning and zoning application for a town cemetery, the question wasn’t worded well. “Unfortunately, my colleagues on the Board of Selectmen asked the wrong question regarding the cemetery,” he said. Dr. Gilbert has stated in the past that he favored asking voters a yes or no question as to whether they wanted a town cemetery, with the financial question separate.

Voter turnout was generally light throughout the day. Of the 6,458 registered voters in Weston, there was a 13.5% turnout for the referendum. That number was down from last year, when 1,117 voted at the referendum, representing 17.67% of the town’s electorate.

Of the 885 who voted this year, 826 were registered Weston voters who voted in person, while 48 voted by absentee ballot. Also included in that number were 11 property owners who aren’t registered voters (seven voting in person and four by absentee ballot). People who own more than $1,000 in property in Weston, even though they aren’t registered to vote in town, are allowed to vote on budgetary matters that impact taxes.

Ms. Weinstein said she was “incredibly disappointed” by the low voter turnout. “In the coming year, we need to work on ways to increase voter participation,” she said.

Mr. Schaefer also expressed concern. “Complacency could eventually lead to a budget defeat,” he said.

However, Nina Daniel, a member of the taxpayers group Weston For Fiscal Responsibility (WFFR), and supporter of a referendum vote, said voter turnout at the polls was significantly higher than the number who attended the ATBM.  She noted that 170 people attended the ATBM, representing 2.48% of those eligible to vote, while 13.5% voted at the referendum.

Last year, 155 people, or 2.45% of eligible voters, attended the ATBM, while 17.67% voted at referendum.

Dr. Gilbert agreed with Ms. Daniel and said the vote confirmed the need for a machine ballot. “Given the turnout relative to the turnout at the ATBM, the machine ballot better represents the whole town’s evaluation of the budgets,” he said.

Until last year, the operating budgets were voted on only by those who attended the ATBM meeting. But WFFR successfully led a petition drive last year calling for a townwide referendum vote. With the promise of another petition looming this year, the selectmen, on their own initiative, called for the referendum.

“A referendum is good because people are given the opportunity to vote. Very few choose to attend and vote at the ATBM. A significantly larger percentage voted at the referendum,” Ms. Daniel said.

Budget and mill rate

Although the town and school operating budgets were decided at referendum, portions of the 2011-12 budget were decided at the ATBM.

The ATBM approved a total debt service of $6,748,200, a 5.39% decrease from the current budget, and a total capital budget of $1,027,303.

The referendum approved $11,184,216 town operating budget represents a 1.86% increase over the current budget, while the approved $45,166,337 school operating budget represents a 1.05% increase of the current school budget.

The new budget would be offset by projected revenues of $2,581,480, making the net budget $61.544 million, a 0.78% increase over the current budget.

The mill rate is expected to be 23.92, a 0.25% increase from this year’s rate of 23.86. At a mill rate of 23.92, a taxpayer with property assessed at $500,000 would pay $30 more in taxes: $11,960 in July 2011 compared with $11,930 this year.

Next local election for the Board of Selectmen decided by...40 votes?  What is the future for "land banked property" such as Fromson Strassler?


Question #1   YES - 697   NO - 186
Question #2  YES - 574   NO - 308
Question #3  YES - 348  NO - 536
TOTAL voting  885 (out of all 6000 plus registered voters plus an unknown number of "Grand List" eligible voters)


Weston cemetery plans are on the table
Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 10:14

The Cemetery Committee is holding information meetings Wednesday, March 30, and Saturday, April 2, on its proposal to build a non-denominational town cemetery.

Wednesday’s meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. at town hall and will include a presentation by the architectural firm Blair Hines Design Associates. A representative from Willowbrook Cemetery Association of Westport is also expected to be on hand.

The Cemetery Committee alone will hold a second informational meeting Saturday, April 2, at 10:30 a.m. at town hall.

The committee’s plan calls for a cemetery to be built on approximately two acres of an 85-acre lot known as the Fromson-Strassler property on Upper Parish Road in the Weston section of Georgetown.

The cemetery will be developed and managed by an outside group such as the Willowbrook Cemetery Association, which has helped the committee in creating the initital plan.

Richard Wolf, chairman of the committee, told the Planning and Zoning Commission March 7 that many people don’t know the business plan for the cemetery calls for it to make money and be cash positive by the year 2014. The town would not need to manage the cemetery in any capacity, but the town would benefit in the proceeds from the sale of gravesites, Mr. Wolf said.

There would be a maximum of 800 gravesites in a woodland-type, rural setting.

The information meetings next week are part of an effort to inform the public about the plan before an April 14 referendum vote regarding an initial expenditure for the cemetery.

Voters will be asked at that time whether the town should refer the cemetery proposal to P&Z and spend up to $30,000 for the documentation needed to do so.


Wednesday evening, March 30, 2011 at 7:30pm in the Town Hall Meeting Room with a presentation from cemetery design and management consultants.   The Town TV channel 79 will show this program live and then show repeats of the broadcast.

The Cemetery Committee will give another presentation on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 10:30am in the Town Hall Meeting Room.

Here is a link to some visuals (just a hint of the really excellent presentation).

The business plan will also be presented (no visuals here).

"Mission Statement" for this Cemetery Committee click here

Weston Speak Up 2011: Townspeople get their say
Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 10:33

The people have spoken.

About 75 people filled the Community Room at the Weston Public Library last Saturday for the annual Weston Speak Up, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Residents had the opportunity to direct questions and comments to approximately 20 representatives of local boards, commissions, and committees, as well as two state representatives who were present.

The mood at the open forum was often light and always respectful — Moderator Laura Smits urged participants at the beginning to “remember we are among friends and neighbors.” But people also spoke passionately and seriously about issues that matter most to them.

Topics raised by the 18 people who had an opportunity to make it to the microphones ranged from speeding on local streets, bicycle safety, building on town property, road maintenance, and target shooting at the rifle range, to lengthier discussions on a proposed town cemetery, a new education initiative (AIM), and the town and school budgets.

“It went very well, and the room was packed,” said First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, who said turnout for the event, which had been postponed from its usual time in February due to bad weather, was better than she had expected. She credited the more “intimate” setting for putting people at ease.

Cemetery proposal

One of the most discussed and most controversial topics was a proposal to build a non-denominational cemetery on a two-acre portion of the 85-acre town-owned Fromson-Strassler property in Georgetown.

The Board of Selectmen decided to ask voters at a referendum April 14 to approve up to $30,000 to gather the documentation P&Z will need for an 8-24 referral. A positive referral form P&Z says the commission believes it is an appropriate use of the land.

Hal Mathews of Treadwell Lane, a longtime proponent of a cemetery in town, asked Stephan Grozinger, chairman of P&Z, and First Selectman Weinstein to answer, “yes or no, do you favor a non-denominational cemetery.”

Mr. Grozinger said he does personally, and after speaking with members of the cemetery committee, he believes use of a portion of the property might be consistent with the Town Plan of Conservation and Development, as long as the committee can show it will not cost the town money in the long run. He said he does not believe town officials should remain neutral on the project.

Ms. Weinstein, on the other hand, said she believes as first selectman, she must do just that. “What is at issue is what the community as a whole thinks... My role is not to put my spin on it” but instead to determine what a majority of townspeople want.

Selectman David Muller agreed with Ms. Weinstein. “I understand your passionate support for this, but a cemetery will be there forever... To go ahead without the town’s support would be a mistake,” Mr. Muller said to Mr. Mathews.

Pat Heifetz of Ledgebrook Court asked why a public hearing has never been posted and held on the cemetery question.

Ms. Weinstein said many public informational meetings have been held — and were generally poorly attended — over the years.

“A public hearing is different,” Ms. Heifetz said. Unlike an informational meeting, a hearing is not to get information from public officials, but for public officials to get information from the people, she said.

Lucy Bowden of Stonehenge Road wanted to know whether asking a question about the cemetery was appropriate at the budget referendum, and why it wouldn’t be discussed at the Annual Town Meeting (ATBM) before the referendum.

Ms. Weinstein explained the referendum is not an adjourned budget vote, because the selectmen already voted to remove the budget votes from the call of the ATBM.

Townspeople will have the chance to learn more about the cemetery project and to comment on it at meetings set for Wednesday, March 30, during a special public comment session at the beginning of the March 31 Board of Selectmen meeting, and at another informational meeting Saturday, April 2.

Explanatory text will also be available at the polls Thursday, April 14, and for those voting absentee beforehand.

A.I.M. project

The other hot topic at Speak Up was a proposal by the school district the implement a new initiative, the Weston Academic Innovation and Measurement (A.I.M.) Project.

Tom Scarice, assistant superintendent of schools, said the program, to be executed in collaboration with Columbia Teacher’s College, will focus on preparing Weston students for the global skills needed for students to succeed in the 21st Century.

The entire program is estimated to cost about $150,000 over the course of three years, but the schools are partnering with the Weston Education Foundation and the school PTOs for funding. Only $50,000 is expected to come from the school operating budget in fiscal year 2012 and another $50,000 in 2013.

Christine Lomuscio of Cannondale Road said she believes the schools are being unrealistic asking for so much money at a time when people are hurting financially and when “municipal people are chipping away at town salaries” in an effort to cut back.

She also questioned “how uneducated are our students now” if the schools are saying things have to change so drastically.

Phil Schaefer, chairman of the school board, said much of what A.I.M. addresses is being done, but not consistently. “We’re trying to create consistency.”

Jeff Sears of Norfield Road said he supports the initiative 100%.

Meagan Couch of Aspetuck Glen said she, too, supports A.I.M., which gives Weston a chance to “jump ahead,” She also voiced support for paying Weston educators well. “Please leave teacher salaries alone. They deserve it,” Ms. Couch said.

Nina Daniel of Goodhill Road said she is both pro-education and pro-fiscal responsibility. “I don’t necessarily believe more money produces better educated kids,” Ms. Daniel said.

She also took issue with the understanding that A.I.M. is a change in the assessment method, not a change in curriculum.

Mr. Scarice said the goal is to find a metric to measure learning against an international benchmark, resulting in “driving instruction in the classroom.”

Other topics

Many other issues were addressed at Speak Up, which is being shown in its entirety daily on Cablevision public access Channel 79 at 10 p.m. Some items discussed include:


A Kettle Creek Road resident said there is excessive speeding on his road. Rick Phillips, chairman of the Police Commission, said studies have shown speed bumps and stop signs are not effective deterrents; the best deterrent is a police presence, he said. Police Chief John Troxell said the town has a speed trailer and a box that will flash a driver’s speed that may be hooked up. He said he will make sure they are used on Kettle Creek in conjunction with enforcement.

Building on town property

Barbara Gross of Blue Spruce Drive compared a situation in 2004 — a fence separating private property and the town-owned Revson baseball fields — with a current situation where a Martin Road resident built a wall on town property. First Selectman Weinstein said that was different because the fence near Revson was built and then allowed to remain based on recommendations by a former Board of Selectmen.

Target practice at rifle range in town

Ellen Uzenoff of Davis Hill Road asked if the town could “have a dialogue” about the amount of time the rifle range near her home is used. Chief Troxell said the range is owned by Aquarion, which manages the Saugatuck Reservoir. Weston police use the range just twice a year for two-week training sessions on semi-automatic rifles. In addition, Aquarion employees train there, as do Westport police (who were asked to stop using the range on Saturdays). Redding Police are likely going to start using it, too. Chief Troxell said he will always investigate any noise complaints.


First Selectman Weinstein explained some of the changes to the budget voting process this year. The Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) will be held Wednesday, April 6, at the Weston High School auditorium at 8 p.m. At that time, people will discuss and vote on the debt service and capital budgets. Then the Town Meeting will have a chance to amend line items in the town budget and the total school budget. Those numbers will be sent to the voters at a referendum Thursday, April 14, for final decision. A question on appropriating money for cemetery application to P&Z will also be asked at the referendum. Absentee voting may be done in person at the town clerk’s office in the days leading up to the referendum.

State legislators

Neil Horner of Catbrier Lane asked state Rep. John Shaban (R-135th) and state Senator Toni Boucher (R-26th) to talk about what is going on in Hartford. Mr. Shaban said in addressing the state’s $3.5-billion structural deficit, there are some “hard cuts, hard reductions, and hard decisions to be made.” Ms. Boucher said she is pleased the new governor has vowed to not borrow money for operating expenses. However, she is concerned about the proposed luxury tax and mandatory sick leave. “I’m not seeing enough spending cuts based on the increases in taxes,” she said.

Real estate conveyance tax

First Selectman Weinstein asked the state legislators if they support making the real estate conveyance tax — which translates into more than $300,000 per year in revenue for Weston — permanent. Mr. Shaban said yes. “All my towns want it,” he said. Ms. Boucher said she is not in favor of making it permanent, but she does support extending it.


Jeff Schwab of Old Hyde Road asked about the state of the town’s roads and road the road maintenance budget. Tom Landry, town administrator, reported the snow removal costs this year are “substantially over budget.” The town’s long-term paving program, however, is very good, so town roads may fare better than state roads when it comes to patching potholes this spring, he said. “We have other things that will be a bigger financial hit than that.”

SELECTMEN’S MEETINGS/actions/reports

Weston selectmen decide cemetery question — or do they?
Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 12:19

In a split 2-1 vote, the Board of Selectmen last week approved the wording for a third ballot question at the April 14 referendum.

It’s possible, however, based on information that came to light a few days after the selectmen met, the board may have to reconsider again the wording of the question.

At their meeting Thursday, March 3, the Board of Selectmen decided the following. After being asked to approve town and school budgets for 2011-12, voters will be asked: “Shall the town of Weston refer a proposal to construct a non-denominational municipal cemetery to the Planning and Zoning Commission and appropriate up to $30,000 for the required documentation?”

However, P&Z met with the Cemetery Committee on Monday, March 7, and commissioners learned one of the things the selectmen thought they needed to pay for — an A-2 survey — may already exist. (See related story.)

“If new information comes to the board, I’m happy to revise the question,” First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said on Tuesday.


The Weston Cemetery Committee wants to put forth a proposal to build a town cemetery on a two-acre section of the approximatly 85-acre Fromson-Strassler property in Georgetown. Ms. Weinstein said the town must first ask for an 8-24 referral from the P&Z Commission; a positive 8-24 would mean P&Z believes the project to be an appropriate use of town land.

Ms. Weinstein said she was basing the request for up to $30,000 on a letter she received from and a conversation she had with Stephan Grozinger, chairman of P&Z.

Mr. Grozinger’s Oct. 19, 2010 letter said P&Z would require:

• An A-2 survey of the entire Fromson-Strassler property, including the location of any flood zones

• Information regarding proposed density of gravesites, layout of paths, parking lots, hazardous materials that might be used, and the dimensions of headstones and other structures

• An engineering study of the soil for the entire Fromson-Strassler property

• Information on access to the proposed cemetery

• Information on possible impact on run-off and water quality in the area

At their meeting Thursday, March 3, the selectmen discussed at great length how to word the question on the ballot. They all agreed the budget referendum was a good time to ask voters for input on the cemetery before spending large amounts of money.

Ms. Weinstein and Selectman David Muller focused on asking about approving money necessary for the initial 8-24 referral. Selectman Dan Gilbert said he would prefer to ask voters if they believe Weston should have a town cemetery and if they are willing to appropriate the money to build it.

Mr. Muller said Dr. Gilbert’s question was a good one, but it would be “flipping the approval by asking people to opine about a specific project before we have the approval to do it,” he said.

Dr. Gilbert questioned where the $30,000 figure came from.

Ms. Weinstein said it was based on a conversation she had with Mr. Grozinger about the estimated cost of the information required for the 8-24 referral.

Mr. Muller and Ms. Weinstein voted in favor of the question as approved; Dr. Gilbert voted against.

Ms. Weinstein said this week she does not believe the survey of the Fromson-Strassler property that was found has all the information P&Z requires for the 8-24 referral.

“We know we need an A-2 survey, but the A-2 was just a small piece of what we were told we need,” she said.

The Cemetery Committee plans to have more information on the project available at Speak Up on Saturday, March 12, and it plans to hold an informational meeting Wednesday, March 30.

Weston cemetery application: P&Z costs may be less
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 12:21

A recently discovered survey may lower the cost of getting an 8-24 planning and zoning approval for a proposed town cemetery.

At a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday night, land use director Tracy Kulikowski said a survey of the property where the cemetery would be located was recently discovered at town hall.

“If there is an A-2 survey, it would cut the costs down,” said P&Z Chairman Stephan Grozinger.

The survey’s discovery was good news for those who would like to see Weston have a town cemetery. One of the sticking points for moving forward was the cost involved in filing an application with P&Z.

The Board of Selectmen voted last Thursday to put a question on the ballot at the April 14 budget vote that asks: “Shall the town of Weston refer a proposal to construct a non-denominational municipal cemetery to the Planning and Zoning Commission and appropriate up to $30,000 for the required documentation?”

Mr. Grozinger was concerned about the $30,000 figure in the ballot question, which has been attributed to him. “I disown it,” he said.

He said First Selectman Gayle Weinstein asked him in January if he could tell her how much it would cost to get all the things that P&Z required for the 8-24 cemetery application, including a survey and soil studies.

“I had an extremely informal, off the cuff discussion with the first selectman and said it could cost between $20,000 and $25,000. I had no idea it would be the basis of the question. For a referendum I would think you would want to get actual prices from vendors,” he said.

Members of the Cemetery Committee who were at the meeting to discuss the cemetery plan said they were discouraged by the current wording of the referendum.

“It seems to me it is worded so it will be voted down. That’s my personal opinion,” said Richard Wolf, chairman of the Cemetery Committee.

P&Z Commissioner Jane Connolly said a figure like $30,000 would likely sound high to many voters in this economy, and especially to those not familiar with the cemetery plan.

Mr. Wolf said many people don’t know the business plan for the cemetery calls for it to make money and be cash positive by the year 2014.

The plan calls for the cemetery to be built on approximately two acres of an 85-acre lot known as the Fromson-Strassler property on Upper Parish Road on the Wilton line. The lot is owned by the town of Weston.

Mr. Wolf said the cemetery would be developed and staffed by the Willowbrook Cemetery Association of Westport. The town would not need to manage the cemetery in any capacity, but the town would benefit in the proceeds from the sale of gravesites.

There would be a maximum of 800 gravesites in a woodland-type, rural setting, he said.

Mr. Wolf said if the cemetery question is defeated at the referendum, most likely the Cemetery Committee would be disbanded and that would be end of the plan.

Ms. Connolly said if Mr. Wolf thought the question was skewed, perhaps the committee should take the plan “off the table” and hold it for another time.

Mr. Wolf said the committee is going to do its best to get the word out to the public about the cemetery plan at Speak Up this Saturday at the library at 10:30 a.m., and at a public meeting on Wednesday, March 30 , at 7:30 p.m. in the Meeting Room at Town Hall.

“It’s a well-organized and well-conceived plan. I hope it becomes a reality,” Mr. Grozinger said.

Selectmen agenda with Cemetery Committee item
THURSDAY JANUARY 20, 2011, 11:30AM

1.    Request for property tax refunds Total $23,724.56/done.
2.    Discussion/decision regarding approval of Blair Hines Design’s proposal to prepare drawings and illustrations to support the proposed development of a Town cemetery/done with one change.

Selectmen agenda with Cemetery Committee item

1. Pledge of Allegiance/done
2. Acceptance of gifts/thanks for small gifts
3. Discussion/decision regarding the appointment of Nancy Hammerslough to fill the vacancy (Sandy O’Brien) on the Commission on Aging for a term to expire December 31, 2012/done
4. Discussion/decision regarding the reappointment of Helen deKeizer to the Commission on Aging for a term to expire December 31, 2012/done
5. Discussion/decision regarding the appointment of Nina Daniels to fill the vacancy (Ernie Albin) on the Commission for the Aging for a term to expire December 31, 2012/done.
6. Discussion/decision regarding the reappointment of Roland Poirier to the Historic District Commission for a term to expire December 31, 2015/done
7. Discussion/decision regarding a request from the Cemetery Committee for $1,600.00 for the preparation of preliminary development plans, sketches and photo boards/done.
8. Request for property tax refunds - Total $3,900.51/done
9. Open Items
Ongoing updates
Valley Forge Bridge- Tom Landry - third week in February it will be open, not counting any delays for snow.
Grants- Gayle Weinstein Ticker File, Discuss as updated/nothing
Reimbursement from State for school projects- Tom Landry - nothing new
10. Any other business to come properly before the meeting/none.
11. Discussion/approval of the joint BoS, BoF and BoE’s meeting minutes of November 1, 2010, the Board of Selectmen’s meeting of November 18, 2010, December 2, 2010 and Executive Session minutes of November 18, 2010/done.
12. Executive Session-Department Public Works negotiations update

Weston town cemetery proposal faces hurdles
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 11:26

The Planning and Zoning Commission has devised a list of requirements should the town decide to move forward with a proposal to put a cemetery on town property.

While no decision has yet been made to move forward with the proposal, First Selectman Gayle Weinstein asked P&Z last week what information it would require should the town ask for an 8-24 review of the Fromson-Strassler property.

The Fromson-Strassler property is an 85-acre tract located in Georgetown off Upper Parish Road, and is owned by the town of Weston. The Board of Selectmen is looking into the feasibility of putting a cemetery on a two-acre portion of the property.

State statute 8-24 requires municipalities to submit town building projects to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review to make sure the project is a suitable use of the property.

A few of the more recent projects subjected to an 8-24 review by P&Z include the Valley Forge Bridge replacement, and construction of the Booster Barn and Weston Food Pantry.


In a letter to Ms. Weinstein dated Oct. 19, P&Z Chairman Stephan Grozinger said because the project would be situated on undeveloped land at the end of a residential street, a special permit might be necessary in order to allow a non-residential use in a residential zone.  He said the commission would be very sensitive to the placement of the cemetery so as not to substantively diminish the value of the Fromson-Strassler parcel.

The commission will require an A-2 survey of the entire property that meets all of the standards the commission imposes on homeowners. For example, the survey must indicate the location of any flood zones.

Another requirement is a full report of the plans for the cemetery including density of gravesites; layout of paths, parking lots, and driveways; whether remains treated with hazardous materials will be permitted; and the dimensions of the headstones, mausoleums and ancillary structures.

An engineering study of the soils in the area is required to ensure the cemetery does not unduly impinge on other developable areas and diminish their value.

The commission also wants to know how the cemetery will be accessed and whether that access is currently public or private.

The final requirement is that the selectmen must demonstrate that the project will not change the rate or direction of runoff and will not threaten water quality.

Public support

Mr. Grozinger also recommended that the selectmen hold an informal public meeting to gauge the public’s support for the cemetery before submitting a formal application to P&Z.

In a recent townwide survey conducted by the town Cemetery Committee, 138 families expressed interest in purchasing grave sites if the town were to develop a cemetery.

While preparing the 2010 Plan of Conservation and Development, P&Z also conducted a survey and asked residents if they favored dedicating town land for a cemetery or memorial garden. There were 341 respondents in favor, 274 opposed, and 115 that failed to respond.

“That response, while not overwhelming, indicates interest among Westonites in having a cemetery available to them within the boundaries of the town,” Mr. Grozinger said.

He noted that there was also a significant level of opposition which could indicate a “distaste” for the possibility of a cemetery in the residential zone or could indicate that some people believe a cemetery is not a good use of valuable and scarce public land.

“It is our hope your application will provide the commission with an opportunity to engage the public in a meaningful dialogue and determine the best way forward,” Mr. Grozinger said.

Townwide cemetery survey: Weston selectmen split on mailing
Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 11:51

In a split 2-1 vote on Aug. 5, the Board of Selectmen approved a supplemental appropriation of up to $2,500 to cover the cost of a townwide mailing from the Cemetery Committee. The mailing will consist of a survey aimed at gauging interest in creating a cemetery in Weston.

Selectman Dan Gilbert voted against approving the appropriation, saying he would rather see the Cemetery Committee first give a presentation to townspeople, detailing exactly what the committee is proposing. The other two selectmen said they want to first determine if there is an interested audience before spending a lot of money on marketing.

Richard Wolf, a member of the Cemetery Committee, told the selectmen the survey to be mailed would consist of two simple questions:

• Would you be interested in purchasing a family plot or individual plots in a cemetery in Weston, and if so, how many?

• Would you be interested in full interment or ash interment grave sites?

The survey is the latest in a long line of steps the current Cemetery Committee has taken in its attempt to build a non-denominational town cemetery. Town-owned properties were studied and narrowed down until the Board of Selectmen told the committee to focus on development of the Fromson-Strassler property in Georgetown.

Last month, the committee brought forward to the selectmen preliminary proposals it had received from Willowbrook Cemetery in Westport for site design and management of a cemetery on a portion of the Fromson-Strassler site.

The committee said estimates for a preliminary site study — including a master site plan, landscape design, land surveys, and marketing and advertising — would cost upward of $66,000.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said at that meeting that while she was impressed with Willowbrook’s proposal, she wanted to gauge the level of interest among Westonites before investing that kind of money.

The board asked the Cemetery Committee to come up with a survey and determine how much money would be needed to conduct it.

At the Aug. 5 meeting, Ms. Weinstein expressed surprise that the survey Mr. Wolf proposed did not have any contact information on it in case people had questions, nor did it ask for contact information from survey participants who express an interest in the cemetery.

“This would be the perfect time to gather names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses for a database you could use going forward,” Ms. Weinstein said.

Selectman Dave Muller also said he “feels strongly” the survey should let people know that as of now, the Cemetery Committee and the Board of Selectmen are looking at the Fromson-Strassler property as the most likely spot for a cemetery.


Selectman Gilbert said he thinks a more comprehensive presentation to the town should come before a survey.

“A survey is a good idea, but for me, money would be better spent by presenting information to the town that’s as real as it can be to give people an opportunity to evaluate something of substance,” he said.

People want to know what the cemetery will look like and what it is going to cost, Dr. Gilbert added.

“I don’t think it will give you any valuable information,” and the survey won’t tell town officials who is willing to “write a check” for cemetery plots, he said.

Selectman Muller reminded Dr. Gilbert that at the last Board of Selectmen meeting, they had talked about the fact that a presentation would be helpful, but “no one would do that presentation for free.” In fact, Mr. Muller said, it would cost many times the amount of a townwide mailing, and would be money wasted if no one is even interested in buying into a Weston cemetery.

“We don’t want to spend anything if people aren’t interested,” Mr. Muller said.

Ms. Weinstein agreed with Mr. Muller, saying that if the survey indicates there are people in town who are interested, “then we can take that next step [and do a presentation], but at least you’ll know you have an audience.”

And, if people return the survey with contact information, that will show a “certain level of commitment,” and “at least you’ll know who you’re marketing to,” Ms. Weinstein said.

Ms. Weinstein and Mr. Muller voted to approve up to $2,500 for the townwide mailing, while Dr. Gilbert voted against.

The mailers were printed this week, and do include a space for people to include their contact information.

The names of the Cemetery Committee members are listed on the survey, but only the selectmen’s office phone number is listed as a contact for anyone who has questions.

The survey asks people to respond if they are “interested in burial spaces in Weston,” but it does not mention that Fromson-Strassler is the property currently iunder consideration for the community cemetery.

The town plans to mail the survey after Labor Day, on Sept. 7. Residents are asked to return responses using the pre-paid postage no later than Sept. 17.

Conservation Commission purview?  Isn't that another solution?

Weston P&Z reviews family cemetery regulation
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, 14 July 2010 11:40

The Weston Planning and Zoning Commission is reviewing two potential zoning regulations that, if approved, would allow cemeteries on private property.

Last week, The Forum looked at a draft regulation that would allow the operation of a public cemetery on private property.

The second part two of this two-part series focuses on a draft regulation that would allow the burial of family members in the backyard under a Family Cemetery Special Permit.

Diane Von Furstenberg is not only an influential fashion designer, but she has also influenced Weston’s Planning and Zoning Commission to review its regulations regarding home burials.

It’s not Ms. Von Furstenberg personally who has come to P&Z’s attention, but rather the action of the Zoning Commission of the town of New Milford, which granted her a permit to create a family cemetery for up to 20 plots in her yard at her Litchfield County residence.

An article about Ms. Von Furstenberg’s zoning approval appeared in the April 15 issue of The New York Times, and it caught the eye of several Weston P&Z members.

“We looked at our own regulations and realized they were silent about home burials. So before we run into any problems, we believe we should be proactive and address this issue,” said Stephan Grozinger, P&Z chairman.

To that end, P&Z is reviewing a draft zoning regulation titled, “Family Cemetery Special Permit,” (see text of regulation online at which, if approved, would allow Westonites to bury family members in their own yards.

“The reason I drafted the regulation is because the commission does not deal in hypotheticals. We will examine the pros and cons of home burials. If there is public support, we can pass a regulation that will allow them. If the public is opposed, we can pass a regulation prohibiting home burials. But whatever the case, we need to do something, because as it stands now our regulations are silent about them,” Mr. Grozinger said.

Court case

A recent court case about home burials has also convinced Mr. Grozinger that the town of Weston needs to take some sort of action.

In Piquet vs. the town of Chester, the plaintiff Elise Piquet filed an action in Superior Court asking whether she had the right to use her private land for the burial of her late husband and for herself upon her death. Her husband was buried in the couple’s backyard, without the knowledge of the town’s zoning compliance officer, who, upon learning of it, issued Ms. Piquet a cease and desist order for violating the town’s zoning regulations.

Although the lower court found in favor of the town in a summary judgment motion, the case is currently on appeal.

Chester and Weston’s zoning regulations are somewhat different on the issue of cemeteries and home burials, but the fact that Weston’s regulations say nothing at all about them could cause potential liability and litigation, which Mr. Grozinger said he would like to avoid.

“There is no specific prohibition in Weston’s regulations against burying someone in the backyard. The town does not need to incur the expense of litigation on this issue. Either there needs to be an outright prohibition or a regulation that stringently monitors home burials,” Mr. Grozinger said.
Draft regulation

In the home burial regulation under P&Z’s review, a cemetery allowing the interment of “up to four human remains,” would be allowed on residential properties.

The minimum setback would be 75 feet from the front, side, and back lot lines.

P&Z has the right to request a bond to assure perpetual maintenance of the cemetery. (It was reported that Ms. Von Furstenberg set up a trust fund to maintain her cemetery in perpetuity.)

No remains treated with formaldehyde or other hazardous substances may be interred.

Grave markers are required to be flush to the ground and above-ground vaults and mausoleums are prohibited.

The regulation has a sunset clause, and will expire on Dec. 31, 2015 unless renewed by P&Z.

“Although I can’t imagine a lot of people will support the regulation, it’s only fair that the issue is brought to the public’s attention,” Mr. Grozinger said.

In discussing the issue informally with people around town, Mr. Grozinger said many said that while they were not in favor of home burial for their own families, they would not object if their neighbors did so under regulated conditions.

A discussion of the draft regulation for family cemeteries, as well as a discussion on a draft regulation for public cemeteries on private property, is scheduled for P&Z’s regular meeting on Sept. 7.

A tentative date of Sept. 20 has been set for a public hearing on the draft regulations, if there is a decision by the commission to take one or both of them to the next level.

New two-acre residential and hereafter district?
Under P&Z review Public cemetery on private property?
Written by Patricia Gay, Weston FORUM
Wednesday, 07 July 2010 10:44

[One of the few cemeteries in Weston is the one behind Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Lyons Plain Road. The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering regulating the operation of a public cemetery on private property. —Kimberly Donnelly photo]

One of the few cemeteries in Weston is the one behind Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Lyons Plain Road. The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering regulating the operation of a public cemetery on private property. —Kimberly Donnelly photo
The Weston Planning and Zoning Commission is reviewing two potential zoning regulations that, if approved, would allow cemeteries on private property. Part one of this two-part series focuses on a draft regulation that would allow the operation of a public cemetery on private property. Next week — family burials in the backyard.

For years, the town of Weston has been grappling with the idea of putting a public cemetery on town property.

In May, the Board of Selectmen moved a step forward in the process by asking the town’s ad hoc Cemetery Committee to focus its efforts on the 100-acre Fromson-Strassler property in Georgetown to see if part of it would be suitable for use as a cemetery.

While waiting for the Cemetery Committee’s findings on costs and feasibility (which it is expected to present at Thursday's Board of Selectmen meeting), the Planning and Zoning Commission is looking into another alternative — allowing cemeteries on private property.

“Cemeteries have been a prominent issue in Weston for more than a decade, and while the committee is exploring the use of putting a cemetery on public land, P&Z is looking at the use of private land,” said Stephan Grozinger, P&Z chairman.

To that end, P&Z is reviewing a regulation Mr. Grozinger drafted, titled “Public Cemetery Special Permit” (click here for text of regulation), spelling out the limitations and restrictions for cemeteries on private land.

Mr. Grozinger pointed out that the regulation was drafted to provide a starting point for discussion on the topic, which is in its preliminary stages.

“The commission has discussed the idea casually, but we plan to do it more formally in September. If the regulation gets the commission’s support, the next step would be to hold a public hearing to see if there is public support for it,” Mr. Grozinger said.

The draft regulation contains numerous limitations for cemeteries on private land, and includes minimum acreage requirements, setbacks, parking restrictions, planting and fencing requirements, and maximum density restrictions.

Any lot in Weston could be used for a cemetery and “the internment of human remains,” provided it complies with the conditions set forth in the regulation.

The minimum lot size required is one and one-half (1.5) acres, which Mr. Grozinger said is intended to keep cemeteries small.

The cemetery would need a minimum road frontage of 200 feet, and the total of land covered by buildings, parking and driveways, may not exceed 5% of the lot.

There would be a minimum setback of 75 feet for all gravesites and memorial gardens from the front, side, and back lot lines. “This requirement is more restrictive than regular setbacks, which are 50 feet from the front and 30 feet from the sides,” Mr. Grozinger said.

There is also a minimum 75-foot setback for parking.

The regulation allows P&Z to require additional areas be set aside to protect natural features, sightlines or neighboring properties.

A planting plan for the lot would need to be submitted for P&Z approval, and the commission could require the installation of fences or walls if it deems them necessary.

Dwellings would be prohibited on the lot, and all cemeteries must comply with state burial laws and regulations.

Any developer of a site would be required to submit a bond to provide for the cemetery’s perpetual maintenance.

There would be a maximum of 500 gravesites allowed per acre. Grave markers would be restricted in size and could not exceed 32 inches in height, 20 inches in width, and four inches in depth.

P&Z, in its discretion, could restrict the type of grave markers to ones that are flush to the ground.

Above-ground burial vaults or mausoleums would be prohibited except for memorial gardens and columbarium wall structures for the internment of cremated remains.

With an eye towards natural internment, no remains treated with formaldehyde or other hazardous substances would be allowed.

Mr. Grozinger said there would be several benefits to the town in allowing public cemeteries on private property.

A main benefit is the potential for generating additional tax revenues. Lots that are presently open space would be taxed as developed lots, Mr. Grozinger said.

A cemetery lot would not add the expense of additional children for the schools, and the land would remain “virtually undisturbed” in perpetuity, Mr. Grozinger said.

“Another thing that makes this alternative attractive,” Mr. Grozinger said, “is it conserves space without spending town money.” He noted that the town would most likely have to enter into a ground lease on the town-owned Fromson-Strassler property and make infrastructure improvements in order for it to be viable for a cemetery.

Privacy is another important factor to take into account, Mr. Grozinger said. Under the current zoning regulations, a neighbor may build a tennis court with a chain link fence 30 feet from someone’s property line — substantially closer than the 75-foot setback for grave markers.

A discussion of the draft regulation is scheduled for P&Z’s regular meeting on Sept. 7. A tentative date of Sept. 20 has been set for a public hearing, if there is a decision by the commission to take the regulation to the next level.

In September, the commission will also discuss a draft regulation for family burial in backyards, which is the subject of part two of this series and will appear in next week’s Forum.



Public cemetery: Special permit draft regulation

Weston FORUM
Wednesday, 07 July 2010 10:51

The Planning and Zoning Commission is reviewing this draft regulation that would allow cemeteries on private property with a special permit.

341.8 Public Cemetery Special Permit

1. Cemetery Use. The use of any lot as a cemetery for the internment of human remains shall be permitted subject to the conditions set forth below.

2. Location: Cemeteries shall be permitted only on a minimum lot area of one and one half acre (1.5 acre) and only in locations with safe and convenient vehicular access as determined by the commission. The commission may reject an application in the event it deems the proposed location or other circumstances unsuitable on any aesthetic, social, or psychological basis.

3. Coverage: A minimum rectangle shall be contained within the lot of 170 feet by 200 feet. Minimum road frontage shall be 200 feet. The sum total of land covered with buildings, parking and driveway surfaces shall not exceed five percent (5%) of the lot.

4. Setbacks and Parking: Minimum setback of all gravesites, memorial gardens, and ancillary structures shall be 75 feet from the front, side and back lot lines. Minimum parking setback shall be 75 feet from the front, side and back lot lines. The commission may set aside additional areas of the lot to further protect natural features, sightlines, or neighboring properties. The commission shall determine the location and dimensions of any parking and driveway areas and may determine the materials to be used.

5. Additional Requirements:

(a) General Requirements. No application for a cemetery special permit shall be approved unless such application includes:

i) A plan showing the location of each proposed gravesite on the lot as fully developed together with proposed walking/access paths, driveways, parking areas, and ancillary structures. In no event shall any gravesite be developed which is not shown on the plan approved by the commission.

ii) A plan showing proposed plantings on the lot as fully developed including species, height and caliper of all trees and shrubs.

iii) The complete contracts and proposed burial policies to govern the development and operation of the lot (excluding monetary terms) providing for adequate remedies, exercisable by the commission or its designee, in the event this regulation, the conditions of the special permit approval, the contract or the policies are violated. Following approval, no contract for the provision of burial or management services to the lot may be amended or assigned without the approval of the commission. Following approval, no provision of proposed burial policies governing the development and operation of the lot may be amended without the approval of the commission.

iv) A report demonstrating that the lot’s topographical and soil conditions are adequate for the use and density proposed, and that there shall be no material hazard to the water supply (expressly including any possible future wells which may be located immediately adjacent to the boundary lines of the lot) as a result of the proposed use, all certified to the commission by an engineer/soil scientist registered in the State of Connecticut.

v) The commission may require that the lot be subject to a covenant prohibiting any subdivision of such lot.

(b) State Approval and Licensing. Any special permit approval shall remain subject to approval of the proposal, and the on-going licensure of the operator, by the appropriate agency or agencies of the State of Connecticut.

(c) Dwellings. Dwelling use on the lot shall be prohibited.

(d) Plantings /Fencing: The commission shall approve a planting plan for the lot which shall provide for the replacement of planting material as needed. The commission may require the installation and maintenance of a fences or walls on the lot as it deems necessary or desirable in its discretion.

(e) Maintenance: The commission may require the submission of a bond and/or submission of a fee for each developed grave site, adequate in the commission’s discretion, to provide for the perpetual maintenance of the lot, plantings, ancillary structures, walls and fences, and/or shall approve a plan providing adequate funding for such care. All such funds shall be held in a manner so as to be secure and bankruptcy remote.

(f) Maximum Internment Density: No more than five hundred (500) gravesites per acre shall be developed on the lot. The commission may, in its discretion, (i) require a lesser density, (ii) permit increased density for internment without a vault or coffin, and (iii) permit increased density to encourage preservation of specific large trees or natural formations. Nothing in the foregoing shall prohibit or limit the stacked internment of two remains within a single gravesite.

(g) Maximum Grave Marker Size: grave markers shall not exceed thirty-two (32) inches in height, twenty (20) inches in width, and four (4) inches in depth. The commission may, in its discretion, require standard design of grave marker, require smaller grave markers (or grave markers which are flush to the ground) throughout the lot or any portion thereof, and may limit the materials from which said markers may be fashioned.

(h) Above-ground Burial Vaults: Above-ground burial vaults or mausoleums shall not be permitted except as otherwise permitted pursuant to subsection (k), below.

(i) Natural Internment: No remains may be interred which have been treated with formaldehyde or other hazardous substance. The commission may, as part of its approval or at any time following approval, require certification of compliance with the foregoing.

(j) Unvaulted Internment: No more than twenty-five (25) remains shall be interned without a vault in any twelve (12) month period. The commission may, in its discretion, require that all remains be interred in vaults.

(k) Memorial Garden/Ancillary Structures: Memorial Garden and columbarium wall structures for the internment of cremated remains and ancillary structures for the care of the plot may be constructed in such location as may be determined by the commission.

(l) Additional Restrictions. There shall be no exterior lighting or public address system of any kind on the lot. No merchandise or service shall be advertised, displayed or sold on the lot.

(m) Non-native Soil. No soil may be deposited on the lot at any time unless such soil has been tested and certified to the commission as being free of any hazardous substance by an engineer/soil scientist registered in the State of Connecticut.

(n) Maximum Cemetery Development. No more than five (5) non-contiguous lots may be issued a special permit under this Section.

(o) Exemption. The provisions of Sections 332.1 and 332.7 shall not apply to this Section.

Old Montville burying ground among forsaken cemeteries;  Law allows towns to take control, but provides no funding
New London DAY
By STEPHANIE REITZ Associated Press Writer
Article published Jul 5, 2010

Montville - Almost 125 years ago, 15-month-old Emma Wheeler was laid to rest within sight of her family's church near a stone wall in a New England cemetery.

The church is now long gone, and the cemetery is abandoned. Over time, the toddler's grave and the rest of the Montville burial grounds became obscured by shoulder-high branches, brambles and fern fronds.
It's a scene mirrored at an untold number of abandoned cemeteries nationwide, leaving state and local governments under pressure from residents to clean up the burial grounds out of respect for the dead - without imposing more costs on the living.

Last year, Connecticut joined a number of states that have enacted laws that let towns acquire abandoned cemeteries if they cannot find the legal owners or heirs and if no burials have taken place for generations.
But the new law only allows for the acquisitions and cleanups. It doesn't require towns to do so or allocate any money to pay for the work.

Likewise, officials in many other states say it's proven nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly how many abandoned burial grounds exist, much less find the legal owners or shoulder the cost of cleaning them up. Part of the reason: Cemeteries weren't on tax rolls, so there was little impetus for governments to track their ownership.

Many abandoned cemeteries are the remnants of family farmstead burial grounds. Some were burial grounds for slaves and their descendants, who were segregated from whites even in death. Others are former churchyards abandoned when the churches disbanded or the last sexton died. Some were in frontier territories that were left behind as pioneers moved on.

In Florida, a legislative task force said some counties have more than 100 abandoned cemeteries each, and that thousands of other lost burial grounds probably remain undiscovered.

Researchers a few decades ago estimated that North Carolina had at least 10,000 abandoned cemeteries - a figure that some researchers now think is too low, given the longtime Southern tradition of being buried on the family homestead.

"Especially with the new mobility in the South after World War II, people moved away and there often would be nobody left to take care of the family graves," said John Clauser, a former archaeologist for the state of North Carolina. "The holly takes over, the yucca starts running wild. Within a few decades, there'd be just about no sign to the casual observer that the graves were there."

Connecticut's law, which went into effect in the fall, lets municipalities take over abandoned cemeteries if no burials have taken place and no plots have been sold in at least 40 years. The cemetery also must have been left without maintenance for at least 10 years, and either the owner can't be found or doesn't object to giving up the site.

Michele Pedro, who has explored the remnants of the Montville burial ground in search of her husband's ancestors, pressed town officials to restore it, resulting in a volunteer cleanup event.

But that's just a temporary fix.

Montville officials currently have no plans - or the money - to acquire the cemetery, despite having permission to do so through the new law. The land hasn't been on the tax rolls for centuries because of its status as a burial ground even though its owner, the Chesterfield Baptist Church, disbanded in the late 1800s.

Its graves date to the late 1700s and include veterans of wars dating to the Revolution.

"I find it absolutely horrifying that anybody would disrespect the dead by letting this get so out of hand," Pedro, of Waterford, said on a recent afternoon as she pushed through branches and brush before the cleanup.
"Even if you don't care about the dead or about history, it's only common decency to care at least enough about the veterans in a place like this to give them some dignity," she said.

Since many such cemeteries aren't on the tax rolls, chasing down today's legal owners can be a challenge.

That's the case in Lowell, Mass., where volunteers are tending a half-acre cemetery on land whose most recent owners of record have been dead for more than a century.

With no taxes to collect, no one has aggressively tried to track down the landowners' descendants. They probably number in the hundreds and likely have no idea they have a stake in an abandoned cemetery.
In Easton, Conn., the town has taken over three abandoned cemeteries since the fall and paid for the cleanups with grants, donations and an adopt-a-grave program.

"The places were going to rack and ruin and becoming a bit of an eyesore," said Town Clerk Derek Buckley, also the town's sexton. "We all felt an obligation to these people because many of them were the founding members of our town."

Gaia vs. the Big Death
Environmentalists take their zealotry to new lows.
Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review
September 6, 2011 4:00 A.M.

Discussing North Korea recently, the journalist Christopher Hitchens reflected darkly that, bad as things are in the Communist country, “at least you can die.” Well, it seems that Kim Jong Il and his merry band have one up on the West. For, here in the free world, even death does not guarantee you escape from the unwanted attentions of the green movement. A Scottish company, whose staff have clearly spent many a long, dark night of the soul fretting over the hazards posed by the greenhouse-gas emissions and energy consumption of funeral-parlor cremation ovens, has developed a new system that literally liquefies human bodies.

The system, which dissolves corpses in heated alkaline water and then smashes the bones up for good measure, has been successfully tested in Australia, and parent company Resomation Ltd. is trying to get the law changed in Europe, the United Kingdom, and all 50 U.S. states to expand the practice. The technique was allegedly “developed in response to the public’s increasing environmental concerns.” I must confess that the mercury content of the burning corpse has never been at the top of the bereaved’s list of concerns at any funeral I have attended, but perhaps I am underestimating the comfort that knowing your late loved one is in for three hours of chemical dissolution — and some good mechanical bone-cracking to boot — can bring to the disconsolate, especially if the procedure is undertaken in the name of environmental purity. Come on Gaia, let’s stick one to Big Death!

Florida will be the first U.S. state fully to enjoy widespread employment of the process, after an Ohio state court deprived Buckeyes of the honor on the grounds that it violated state law. Still, Ohioans managed to dispose of 19 bodies in this manner before the injunction took force. Once dissolved, the remains are so clean that they can be poured into the municipal water system, and resomation inventor Sandy Sullivan assures his critics that the liquefied body tissue poses no environmental risk. Residents of Florida will no doubt take comfort in that the next time they switch on their taps for a cooling glass of water.

The green “solutions” do not end there. Other proposals include freeze-drying the body with liquid nitrogen and then vibrating it until it shatters into fragments, which are passed through filters that separate the remains into different out-trays, a form of afterlife garbage disposal that sounds as if it had come from the more surreal pages of the Onion. The key “advantage” of the procedure, developed by Swedish creator Susanne Wiigh-Masak, is that the body can then be poured into a shallow grave and become soil. In order to test the efficacy of the process, developers fitted a pig with an artificial metal hip, before killing it and pushing it through the contraption. Thus she proved her “organic” credentials.

These, along with the fad of “natural burial” — in which coffins, embalming fluid, and all the salutary advances of the past thousand years are rejected in favor of shallow graves and what effectively amounts to composting — are part of an ongoing and regressive attempt to impose a narrow conception of “sustainability” on even our most private moments. Currently, such systems are voluntary, and families remain free to choose how they dispose of their dead. But if the history of the green movement is anything to go by, such choice will not last long, especially when reducing carbon emissions is the motivating factor. In Agamemnon, the father of tragedy, Aeschylus, noted that “death is better, a milder fate than tyranny.” If he could have seen where things were going, he might not have drawn such a clear distinction.

A casket made of willow, a renewable material.

Into the Great Green Beyond
June 30, 2010, 8:31 am

At the end of an eco-conscious life, there is a final choice a person can make to limit his or her impact on the planet: a green funeral.

“Consumers might live green, but they don’t think about dying green,” said Darren Crouch, president of Passages International, with offices in Albuquerque, N.M., and Berkshire, England, which supplies funeral homes with environmentally friendly caskets and urns. “They don’t know that they can green their funeral.”

Of the more than 2.4 million deaths per year in the United States, roughly 70 percent of the newly departed are interred in traditional caskets — that is, wood, steel or even copper caskets, many of which are then encased in slabs of reinforced concrete to prevent the weight of the earth from causing them to collapse. For those who go the casket route, embalming with toxic chemicals like formaldehyde remains common.

As a result, the environmental footprint of the dead is a heavy one. Every year, cemeteries across the nation bury approximately 30 million board feet of hardwood, 104,000 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze and 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, according to statistics gathered by environmental groups and advocates for green burial.

For those inclined toward a green funeral for themselves or a loved one, there are several options. One is cremation and burial in a biodegradable urn. Caskets made from renewable materials are also becoming popular; when the actress Lynn Redgrave passed away recently, for instance, she was buried not in a traditional hardwood casket, but in one made from bamboo.

And in England, there is a growing trend toward so-called woodland burials, in which bodies are buried not in regimented plots but in fields and forests, allowing the remains to quickly return to nature.

Green caskets and eco-friendly burial options remain somewhat rare in the United States, so planning ahead is a good move, proponents say. One useful resource is the nonprofit Green Burial Council.

“There are greener alternatives within the funeral industry,” Mr. Crouch said. “But when someone dies, you don’t have much time to research your options.”


The Planning & Zoning Commission is preparing to hold public hearings in the Fall on two new special permit zones:  one for town cemetery special permit and one for "family" burials on private property.


Above is a grave from a collection of headstones displayed on an internet site.  Rural looking!

At their Special Meeting May 19th, the Board of Selectmen reviewed their 'walk' of three possible cemetery sites, taken on May 1st, and discussed with Cemetery Committee members present their reactions.   The Cemetery Committe was invited back in later June to provide what information they might be able to get together on making an estimate of costs for a Town Cemetery at F-S.

We started our "walk" by parking at Town Hall (upper left)...

Special Joint Meeting of Cemetery Committee and Selectmen - photos of first stop - Jarvis Military Academy site.
A quorum of both Cemetery Committee and Board of Selectmen were present at this "site walk" (4 of 5 from Cemetery Committee, full Board of Selectmen) and First Selectperson Weinstein opened the meeting on time and then passed the leadership of the "walk" to Chair. Richard Wolf of the Cemetery Committee.  Quite a few citizens, several of whom were neighbors (but not all) were at the first stop - Jarvis.  The second stop was to be the Moore property and the last, Fromson-Strassler.  "About Town" only attended the first site of three.

The Jarvis Military Academy

Possible Weston cemetery sites: Jarvis property seems most suitable

Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Thursday, 04 March 2010 00:00

Based on specific considerations weighed by the town’s Cemetery Committee, it appears the Jarvis property on the corner of Norfield and Weston roads — the current location of the Parks and Recreation Department offices — is most suitable for use as a town cemetery.

Last week, the Cemetery Committee offered the Board of Selectmen a rating of three sites the town might consider using as a cemetery. These are the Jarvis property (site of the old Jarvis Military Academy) in Weston Center; the Moore property on Lord’s Highway; and the Fromson-Strassler property in Georgetown.

In rating the sites, the committee considered things such as development, maintenance and management costs; visibility to neighbors and from major roads; accessibility; environmental conditions; future expansion possibilities; compatibility with surroundings; and potential opposition by neighbors or regulatory problems.

The Jarvis property scored highest in both unweighted tabulation of ratings and in a weighted tabulation, which assigns a value based on importance to each consideration.

Jarvis received a total weighted rating of 2,139 points out of a possible total of 4,000. Fromson-Strassler received 1,860 points, and Moore 1,750 points.

The Jarvis property rated highest for considerations such as accessibility to a major road, topographic suitability, and subsoil conditions.

However, it did not rate well when it comes to future expandability (it is only a two-acre parcel). Jarvis rated 2, compared with 100 for each of the other two properties.

The only other considerations in which the Jarvis site rated lower than both the other properties was character of the property as a cemetery and present adequacy of the site.

The Cemetery Committee said the character of the property as a cemetery is based on expert opinion that a preferred site has a “rising uphill approach, or gently level, undulating or rolling, minimal forest cover, [and] ‘marginal agriculture.’”

In addition, the committee members believe a site should “complement Weston’s rural character and/or blend with exisiting development.”

The character of the Jarvis site was given a weighted rating of 144, compared with 200 for the Moore property, and a 188 for Fromson-Strassler.

As for present adequacy of the site, the committee said a desired site would provide the town with burial space for 50 years, which means a site of approximately two acres minimum. Since Jarvis is only two acres, is was rated a 165, comared with 250 for Moore, and 220 for Fromson-Strassler, both of which are larger.

The Cemetery Committee is made up of Richard Wolf, chairman, Pamela Bochinski, Benjamin Hume, Harold Matthews, and Stewart Pearl.

The selectmen decided that sometime after the end of this month — after Selectman Dan Gilbert returns from an extended trip — the selectmen will walk each of the properties with Cemetery Committee members.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said after that, the board will seek community input.

“We may each have personal preferences, but we all have a responsibillity to the community going forward,” Ms. Weinstein said.

Tuesday, 2/2/2010 1:29 pm

Langley eyes fees for green burials
By ROY JACOBSON, South Whidbey Record Reporter
Jan 29 2010, 4:17 PM · UPDATED

The first reading of a proposed new fee schedule to include green burials at the city cemetery will occupy the Langley City Council at its meeting next week.

The council meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, at city hall on Second Street.

The city’s Cemetery Board came up with a suggested price for the new green-burial plots at Langley Woodman Cemetery.

The cemetery has set aside 48 plots for green burials, which are done without cement grave liners or embalming, and involve biodegradable caskets or sheaths.

There are only 11 other certified green-burial sites in the United States, two of them in Washington state, at Burlington and in Eastern Washington, said Debbie Mahler, city finance director.

Each green-burial site at Woodman Cemetery is 6 feet by 10 feet, compared to the standard 4 feet by 8 feet, and requires more space so maintenance vehicles don’t drive over the graves, risking the chance of a collapse.

The Cemetery Board recommends charging $1,200 per plot, with an additional maintenance fee of $400.

Because there have been several requests from off-island residents for the green-burial plots, a six-month pre-sale price for local residents of $1,000 plus $400 maintenance also is recommended, Mahler said.

Weston FORUM article and editorial on "open public meeting" televised on Channel 79 live!  #4 Moore not pictured...


Present:  Richard Wolf, Pam Bochinski, Hal Mathews, Stewart Pearl, Benjamin Hume;  Margaret Wirtenberg; John Conte, Town Engineer;  invited members of the public including the Board of Selectmen (Gayle Weinstein, First Selectman, Dan Gilbert and David Muller), two members of the Board of Finance (Mike O’Brien and Bob Atkinson), one member of the Planning and Zoning Commission (Jane Connelly), two members of the Commission on Aging (Lois Miller, Terry Hulley) and another dozen citizens.  Former First Selectman Woody Bliss was present.

The meeting was called to order by Chair. Richard Wolf at @7:35pm.   Wolf read the charge to this Cemetery Committee

The Committee introduced themselves to the public and explained their interest in the subject and why they volunteered to serve.

Pam Bochinski gave a thorough description of what had transpired over the 18 years since the first Cemetery Committee began work.  That first Committee recommended that the Town take over Coley Cemetery.

The second Committee recommended using parts of Bisceglie Park.   The third Committee did a business plan for a non-denominational cemetery on the newly acquired Fromson-Strassler parcel.  Committee #4, using a professional consultant, did a review of parcels, creating a matrix evaluating their possibilities and recommended properties that were either not available or encumbered. 

Richard Wolf then went on to explain how the new Committee had a slightly different charge (for 50 years worth of burials instead of 100 years), so that  more Town-owned properties were in play.  He described the map.  There were 10 or so potential sites located there.

Town Engineer Conte then went through his engineering assessment of the top 4 sites, discussing soils, depth to bedrock and other physical conditions;  access was discussed.

The public was recognized at all times if they had questions or comments.  Discussion ensued regarding the next steps, with the new Board of Selectmen making some suggestions about methodology, timing and the parcels themselves.  Chair. Wolf thanked everyone for coming.    

Architect pushes for changes at city cemetery
By Mary E. O’Leary, Register Topics Editor
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NEW HAVEN — Architect Robert Stern made the case Tuesday for a “small intervention” in the wall on one side of the Grove Street Cemetery, but the owners of burial plots there dismissed the proposal as an intrusion into sacred space.

“The walk along Prospect Street is very unfriendly from the outside. It would be nice to catch a glimpse inside,” Stern said as he explained a plan to insert a cast-iron fence in three places along the 8-foot-tall sandstone wall.

He would also add another row of tall trees along the street, flowering bushes and ground cover, as well as more appropriate lighting adjacent to this section of the cemetery, which is a National Historic Landmark.

“I think, from the public’s perception, it is a bleak environment, but it can change into something much softer and more friendly,” said Stern.

The cemetery already has a cast-iron fence along the Grove Street perimeter; the sandstone wall on the three other sides was not added until 1841, after the original wooden fence deteriorated.

The suggestion to replace part of the sandstone with three four-foot sections of iron fencing was made by Charles Ellis, a proprietor of the cemetery and one of 11 members of its standing committee, who will make the final decision on any changes.

G. Harold Welch Jr., president of the standing committee, told the large audience of preservationists and proprietors that they won’t rush to make a decision. Anyone who owns a burial plot is a proprietor.

Ellis said his experience with cemeteries growing up in Massachusetts and going to school in Cambridge was of quiet, open spaces, and he considered opening up a portion of the wall along the Grove Street Cemetery as “a marvelous opportunity to improve the overall experience” of the city landmark.

Ellis, who is married to Yale Vice President Linda Lorimer, said the plan is not endorsed by the university, which is building two new residential colleges a block from the cemetery, but more of his idea, “to do something that might be useful to this community.”

Several widows who spoke up at the meeting agreed with the improved landscaping and lighting, but not touching the wall.

One woman said she drove her dying husband to the cemetery to show him where he would be buried. “He felt happy and content, if it is possible for anyone to feel happy that they had found the right place for them to be buried,” she said.

The thought that the cemetery would be opened up to passers-by “feels like such a violation of the committment I made to him. ... I find it bizarre to change something that is such a wonderful place,” she said to clapping from the audience.

Another woman said the Grove Street Cemetery is an example of a closed burial space, and to change it would violate that concept. “It’s a cemetery, not an attraction,” she offered.

Stern was not able to test how much noise and emissions would creep into the cemetery, but said any changes would be small compared to the amount of traffic already passing by on Grove Street.

Susan Saccio wasn’t buying any of the explanations.

Just having purchased a burial spot for herself and her husband, she found the proposal “very upsetting. This is a beautiful blessed space,” where visitors find peace and quiet, she said. “Leave the wall alone.”

“That wall really does imply a separation, whatever it is — it made me come here today,” to speak up, said Adrienne Lewis, whose husband, Gene Lewis, an architect, is buried there. “He just loved it” and would be happy she opposed any change, she said.

Stern, also the dean of the Yale Architecture School, said there have been changes over the years at the cemetery, as with most built structures.

“In my view, this is not a breaking of the sacred trust between 1840 and today. ... I have spent all my life as a preservationist. ... No building that I know of has been preserved exactly as it was,” while landscapes are constantly evolving, Stern said.

The Rev. Sandra Olsen of Center Church on the Green said she often accompanies visitors to the cemetery for memorial services and they are always comforted by the “mixture of intimacy and privacy they find. I don’t see the need to change that.”

Anstress Farwell of the New Haven Urban Design League presented Welch with a petition signed by 450 people opposed to the fence, but in favor of better landscaping.

Home Burials Offer an Intimate Alternative
July 21, 2009

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — When Nathaniel Roe, 92, died at his 18th-century farmhouse here the morning of June 6, his family did not call a funeral home to handle the arrangements.

Instead, Mr. Roe’s children, like a growing number of people nationwide, decided to care for their father in death as they had in the last months of his life. They washed Mr. Roe’s body, dressed him in his favorite Harrods tweed jacket and red Brooks Brothers tie and laid him on a bed so family members could privately say their last goodbyes.

The next day, Mr. Roe was placed in a pine coffin made by his son, along with a tuft of wool from the sheep he once kept. He was buried on his farm in a grove off a walking path he traversed each day.

“It just seemed like the natural, loving way to do things,” said Jennifer Roe-Ward, Mr. Roe’s granddaughter. “It let him have his dignity.”

Advocates say the number of home funerals, where everything from caring for the dead to the visiting hours to the building of the coffin is done at home, has soared in the last five years, putting the funerals “where home births were 30 years ago,” according to Chuck Lakin, a home funeral proponent and coffin builder in Waterville, Me.

The cost savings can be substantial, all the more important in an economic downturn. The average American funeral costs about $6,000 for the services of a funeral home, in addition to the costs of cremation or burial. A home funeral can be as inexpensive as the cost of pine for a coffin (for a backyard burial) or a few hundred dollars for cremation or several hundred dollars for cemetery costs.

The Roes spent $250.

More people are inquiring about the lower-cost options, said Joshua Slocum, director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit watchdog group. “Home funerals aren’t for everybody, but if there’s not enough money to pay the mortgage, there certainly isn’t enough money to pay for a funeral,” Mr. Slocum said.

Baby boomers who are handling arrangements for the first time are particularly looking for a more intimate experience.

“It’s organic and informal, and it’s on our terms,” said Nancy Manahan of Minneapolis, who helped care for her sister-in-law, Diane Manahan, after she died of cancer in 2001, and was a co-author of a book, “Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully,” about the experience. “It’s not having strangers intruding into the privacy of the family. It’s not outsourcing the dying process to professionals.”

While only a tiny portion of the nation’s dead are cared for at home, the number is growing. There are at least 45 organizations or individuals nationwide that help families with the process, compared with only two in 2002, Mr. Slocum said.  The cost of a death midwife, as some of the coaches call themselves, varies from about $200 for an initial consultation to $3,000 if the midwife needs to travel.

In Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and New York, laws require that a funeral director handle human remains at some point in the process. In the 44 other states and the District of Columbia, loved ones can be responsible for the body themselves.

Families are typically required to obtain the death certificate and a burial transit permit so the body can be moved from a hospital to a cemetery, or, more typically, a crematory.

But even in states where a funeral director is required, home funerals are far less expensive.

“I think with our economy being the way that it currently is, and it’s getting worse, that many people who may not have chosen to do these types of things may be forced to because of the finances,” said Verlene McLemore, of Detroit, who held a home funeral for her son, Dean, in 2007. She spent about $1,300 for a funeral director’s services.

Some families, like the Roes, choose burial on private land, with a town permit. In most states, those rules are an issue of local control. “Can Grandma be buried in the backyard? Yes, for the most part if the backyard is rural or semirural,” said Mr. Slocum.

(Some members of Michael Jackson’s family have spoken of making Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara the singer’s final resting place, but officials say no one has submitted an application to the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, which would have to approve the home burial.)

Recently, some states, with the backing of the funeral industry, have considered restricting the practice of home funerals. Oregon legislators last month passed a bill that would require death midwives to be licensed, something no state currently does.  Many death midwives are like Jerrigrace Lyons, who was asked to participate in the home funeral of a close friend, a 54-year-old woman who died unexpectedly in 1994. Ms. Lyons was initially frightened at the prospect of handling the body, but she participated anyway.

The experience was life changing, she said, and inspired her to help others plan home funerals. She opened Final Passages in Sebastopol, Calif., in 1995 and said she had helped more than 300 families with funerals. Weekend workshops for those interested in home funerals have a waiting list.  Ms. Lyons educates the bereaved about the realities of after-death care: placing dry ice underneath the body to keep it cool, tying the jaw shut so it does not open.

Mr. Lakin, a woodworker, makes coffins specifically for home funerals. Ranging in price from $480 to $1,200, they double as bookcases, entertainment centers and coffee tables until they need to be used.

He became interested in home funerals after his father died 30 years ago and he felt there was a “disconnect” during the funeral process. Mr. Lakin is now a resource for funeral directors in central Maine and a local hospice.  His coffins are sold to people like Ginny Landry, 77, who wants a home funeral one day but is content to use her coffin to showcase the quilts she makes. It once stood in her bedroom, but her husband, Rudolph, made her move it to a guest room because he pictured her in the coffin every time he laid eyes on it.

“It’s very comforting to me, knowing I have it there so my children won’t have to make a decision as to where I’m going to go,” Ms. Landry said.

During her battle with cancer, Diane Manahan also requested a home funeral, and the family did not know then how much it would help them with their grief.

“There’s something about touching, watching, sitting with a body that lets you know the person is no longer there,” Nancy Manahan said. “We didn’t even realize how emotionally meaningful those rituals are, doing it ourselves, until we did it.”

Valley Forge Cemetery:  Aquarion lays out challenges if Weston pursues site
Weston FORUM
by Kimberly Donnelly

Mar 5, 2008

The town would have to jump through several hoops to put a cemetery on the corner of Valley Forge Road and Newtown Turpike — and there’s no guarantee after jumping through them that it would ultimately be approved by the landowners.

That was the conclusion the Board of Selectmen came to after speaking with representatives from Aquarion Water Company on Feb. 28.
“You have a challenge ahead of you if you wish to consider the site in question,” said Leendert DeJong, manager of watershed and environmental management for Aquarion.

First of all, Mr. DeJong said, a state law was established in 1949 that prohibits cemeteries within a half-mile of a public water supply. The site in question is 800 feet from the Saugatuck Reservoir.

Selectman Glenn Major clarified that the law does not say the town can’t locate a cemetery there, but if it wants to, the town would have to go to Superior Court and prove the cemetery is a public convenience, a necessity, and it will not be detrimental.

Mr. DeJong agreed, but said there are other hurdles.

In 2002, what was formerly Aquarion land around the Saugatuck River Watershed was acquired by the state. In 2004, Governor M. Jodi Rell established the Centennial Watershed State Forest — the site in question is part of that 15,000-acre tract.

The land is technically owned by Aquarion, but is managed by the Conservation Land Committee (CLC), made up of the Nature Conservancy, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Aquarion. Mr. DeJong said conservation easements and a natural resources agreement exist between the three parties.

The agreement says Class I land, such as that being considered for the cemetery site, is to be “dedicated and preserved in perpetuity in its natural and open condition for the protection of natural resources,” Mr. DeJong said. The interpretation of that, he continued, is that the land is intended to be used as open space and for recreational use only.

In addition, Mr. DeJong said, the state health department has the ultimate say in what is approved or not on Class I land, so the cemetery proposal would require health department review and approval.

Steve Stamos, manager of natural resources for Aquarion, is the water company’s representative on CLC. He told the selectmen the group would consider a cemetery to be inconsistent with the natural resource management agreement.

Mr. Major said, “One could make the argument that a cemetery is not inconsistent with what’s being done here.” He wondered if the Superior Court, the state DEP, and the Nature Conservancy “sign off on that area as being a cemetery,” would Aquarion agree.

If Aquarion would simply never agree to having a cemetery on the site under any circumstances, “that obviously would have a huge bearing on how we proceed,” Mr. Major said.

Mr. DeJong said they could take the question to CLC at its meeting this week “and get a direct answer.”

However, Mr. Stamos said, “I can tell you, the answer is going to be no.”

First Selectman Woody Bliss said the board would still like an official answer from CLC, and Mr. Stamos agreed he would get one.

We attended this Selectmen's meeting, and as we heard it, it was the opinion of the Chair. of the Cemetery Committee Richard Wolf that only the Lachat property (see above right) fits the bill as a site for a Town cemetery, and this view is supported in the study by a consultant.  FORUM report follows:

Weston eyes Lachat for cemetery
by BRIAN GIOIELE, Weston Forum
Jan 2, 2008
A portion of the Lachat property, near the corner of Godfrey Road West and Newtown Turnpike, has been recommended as a possible site for a new town cemetery. —Kimberly Donnelly photo 
Cemetery experts believe that the Lachat property could be home to more than just a nature center.

The Cemetery Committee’s report — presented to the Board of Selectmen Dec. 20 — says a four-acre portion of the Lachat property is the “physically and aesthetically most suitable location for a proposed cemetery of the sites reviewed.”

The only problem is the land is jointly owned by the town and the Nature Conservancy. And Selectmen Glenn Major said Dr. Steve Patton, director of the conservancy’s Devil’s Den, has said that type of use is off limits.

“I don’t think the use of the property is inconsistent with the agreements (made in the Lachat deal),” said Mr. Major. “But when asked about this, Steve Patton told me, ‘Fine, use eminent domain.’ Those were his words.”

The Lachat site was among five locations in town analyzed for character and cemetery potential by Grever & Ward Inc. Landscape Architects and Cemetery Planners.

The other sites were:

•    Some three acres on the corner of Valley Forge Road and Newtown Turnpike.
•    The library site on Norfield Road.
•    The Jarvis property where Jarvis House sits on Norfield Road.
•    Expansion of the existing Coley Cemetery on Weston Road, just south of Goodhill Road.

“We decided that only one site of town-owned property could be recommended at this point in time, and that is a portion of the Lachat site,” said Cemetery Committee member Richard Wolf.

The committee’s report notes the delicate nature of the site’s ownership, but a cemetery would not be “incompatible with other uses under consideration.”

“The committee is mindful of the practical and political issues which the use of a portion of the Lachat property for this purpose may present,” said the committee’s report. “Nevertheless, the committee strongly believes that this cemetery site should be included as part of the land use master plan now being developed for the Lachat property by the town and the Nature Conservancy.”

When asked the remaining order of preference of sites after the Lachat property, Mr. Wolf said that no such decision was made.

“It is important that we have an order of preference for the other options,” Mr. Major said.

“The committee hasn’t done that,” said Pam Bochinski, committee chairman. “The consultant doesn’t feel that the other sites, other than the possible exception of the Valley Forge site, are good cemetery sites at all.”

The selectmen then asked why the Valley Forge site, which was also found appropriate for a cemetery in the consultant’s report, was not recommended.  The committee said using that site would require land acquisition, since the property in question is part of the Centennial Watershed State Forest, jointly managed by Aquarion Water Co., the state Department of Environmental Protection, and the Nature Conservancy.

Ms. Bochinski said Aquarion officials have stated the company would not allow such a development, meaning eminent domain would again be the only option.  Mr. Major asked for more information about the suitability of the Valley Forge Road site as well as estimates on what the costs would be to use eminent domain to take either the four acres of Lachat land or the three acres of Valley Forge Road property.

“If we in fact have to spend X amount of money, we might determine that it would be more cost-effective for us to investigate purchasing properties that we had not considered purchasing before,” Mr. Major said.

The consultant found the Lachat site “appears to be a very viable choice for a town cemetery” that could hold some 2,000 graves plus substantial facilities for cremated remains.

“The immediate neighborhood is thinly populated, no major commercial or other public facilities are competing for existing infrastructure, the demand for public services is practically nil, and safety conflicts are not apparent,” the report states.

This site would have longevity of 50 years as a cemetery, according to the consultants.  The Valley Forge Road site, located at the corner of Newtown Turnpike, could yield 2.4 acres of interment space, or some 2,200 graves. This means the site would last some 55 years, the report states.

“There are no notable restrictive site limitations other than the small existing cemetery whose limits of occupation are unknown,” the report states. “An archeological study would likely ensue in respect to the existing burial ground to establish its limits and avoid compromising its historical and heritage values.

“Otherwise, there are no neighborhood constraints, businesses or competitive entities to challenge its usage,” the report states.

Ms. Bochinski said that not only land acquisition but also clearing of the property make the Valley Forge Road location unsuitable.  But Mr. Major said using the Lachat site could prove to be the “most complicated regarding deed restrictions.”

However, Mr. Wolf said the committee still felt the Lachat land would be most suitable for a town cemetery.

“We thought there was a possibility of switching. The town could give up the rights to an equivalent piece of land to the Nature Conservancy,” Ms. Bochinski said.

“I specifically asked Steve (Patton). He was very unequivocal: ‘No,’” responded Mr. Major.

Selectman Gayle Weinstein asked about reutilizing Coley Cemetery, an idea the committee members shot down immediately.

“Quite frankly, some committee members have said you can recompose the committee if you decide to look at Coley,” said Mr. Wolf. “We have taken the position that Lachat is the only property that would satisfy the needs of a town cemetery, unless the town purchases other land.”

Ms. Bochinski said expanding Coley Cemetery would yield another 200 to 300 new grave sites, while ultimately destroying the historical character of the old cemetery. She said any new graves would “really be cramming things in there.”

“So the committee’s position is it is Lachat or nothing?” asked Mr. Major.

“Yes,” responded Mr. Wolf.

News from around CT...
Cemetery Group Links Two More Accounts To Cross 

New London DAY
By Jenna Cho    
Published on 9/26/2007 

Ledyard — In a matter of months, the Gales Ferry Cemetery Association's new board of directors has gone from having no records of its financial history to learning about the existence of three separate bank accounts under its name.

The latest discoveries were of two high-yield Certificate of Deposit accounts, since closed, that the association's former sexton, Cynthia L. Cross, had held at The Dime Savings Bank. It was the same bank that had held a checking account in the association's name that association officials say Cross used regularly to write checks from and deposit funds into.

Association President Susan Billing is hopeful the information she is gathering will help with an ongoing police investigation on discrepancies in the cemetery association's finances, which Cross, 53, appears to have operated single-handedly for years. Cross has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing in the cemetery investigation.

Cross is currently serving a prison sentence for embezzling $152,000 from the Town of Ledyard's Water Pollution Control Authority. In that case, Cross was said to have pocketed cash payments made to the WPCA while she worked as its executive administrator.

Billing said Cross denied use of any bank account to conduct association business before she resigned in June. Billing discovered the CD accounts by requesting bank information on two deposits made to the association's checking account.

“Bank accounts are like road maps, right to the source of the money,” she said.

The problem, Billing said, was that banks only kept records for a certain number of years, and some of the history the association seeks goes back 17 years, when Cross took over as sexton from retired town treasurer Catherine L. Clark.

The CD accounts were closed on May 20, 2002 and Aug. 7, 2003. The account amounts — $8,104.22 and $4,996.97 — were deposited back into the checking account the same days the CD accounts were closed.

Association secretary Mary Emerich said that while Cross publicly denied managing any bank accounts under the association's name, Cross once told Emerich specifically that she was using interest generated from a CD account to maintain the cemetery.

The existence of the CD accounts also raises a question about the existence of a Board of Directors. Billing said Cross had told her before resigning that she worked under a board that met annually. The names Cross provided as board members didn't check out, but Billing said that bank records of the CD account that was closed in August 2003 showed that a woman named Kimberly E. Smith, identified in the records as the association's president, signed on that account.

Billing said she has not yet verified Smith's involvement and remained uncertain as to whether a board truly existed during Cross' time as sexton. The association reorganized in June and elected a new board.

Billing has requested information on 30 more deposits Cross made to the association's checking account. She said she hoped the history of those deposits would yield even more information on Cross' management of the association's funds.

“I think it's good news, even though unfortunately the money's not there,” said Billing of the discovery of the CD accounts. “What I'm hoping for is that one of the other deposits may show a source that still has funds in it. And I know that's probably wishful thinking, but it would be nice. If we don't find out, if we don't ask, we'll never know.”


Cemetery Committee 2009-2010 Public Notices/informal, unofficial minutes below
Members:  Hal Mathews, Pam Bochinski, Stewart Pearl, Richard Wolf, Benjamin Hume.

NOTE:  A "walk" of the Fromson-Strassler Property including the Town Engineer scheduled for Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 2:45pm, beginning at the termination of Upper Parish Road.

Please note that we have not posted the notices or minutes online for some time - they are available in the Town Clerk's Office for public inspection.  Please read the FORUM story about the Cemetery Committee's Public Hearing here.

Minutes of Oct. 26, 2009

Minutes of October 7, 2009

WALK scheduled for September 26, 2009 at 9am (Saturday) of properties discussed at Sept. 8th meeting.

Agenda, Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 7:30pm, Commission Roon at Town Hall

Agenda, Monday, August 31, 2009 at 7:30pm, Commission Room at Town Hall

PREVIOUS COMMITTEE NOTES: "About Town" did not continue attending this Ad Hoc Committee because some of the work was being done in Executive Session (land discussions) to which we would not be invited to attend (since we are not on the Committee).

Meeting #5
The fifth meeting of this Committee will take place on Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 9:30am in the Commission Room at Town Hall.  The posted agenda includes approval of minutes of the previous meeting and a continuation of the discussion and evaluation of potential cemetery sites.

Meeting #4
The fourth meeting of the renewed Cemetery Committee (#3 was a windshield survey of Town owned and some not Town-owned properties reviewed for possible consideration for a Town of Weston cemetery - "About Town" did not go on this legally noticed [Dec. 2] "tour.") took place on Saturday morning, December 9, 2006.

After reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of sites "visited" on Dec. 2, the Committee concluded that a spread-sheet analysis and whatever visual aides needed to communicate its work, could be prepared later in January 2007 for informal review by the Town leadership prior to further steps such as actually proposing an application [NOTE:  this website's opinion coming up...] for a new zone for cemeteries, or a new Special Permit category for a Town Cemetery, to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Meeting #2
In the second meeting of this new group, on Saturday, November 18, 2006, it was decided to move ahead with a quick review of land available including any made available since the last effort (windshield survey) as soon as a list of "top ten" sites can be assembled and located on appropriate maps to scale;  after the "windshield survey" the Committee will meet on Saturday, December 9, 2006 at 10am in the Commission Room at Town Hall.

New ideas regarding the existing memorial and role of a cemetery in community life were broached.

Minutes of the Cemetery Committee are available at the Town Clerk's Office.

In the public Town Clerk for membership on the immediately previous (2007) Ad Hoc Committee.

The Town of Weston has been studying the need for a Town Cemetery for perhaps 15 years.  An Ad Hoc Committee has been active in several bursts of activity in that time.  All minutes are available at Town Hall, as this has been one of the very best Committees ever appointed for posting notices and keeping up to date minutes on file!  Video record of "testimony" by members at LWV of Weston "Speak Up" events over the years is witness to this.

In 2006, a new effort began, ultimately coming to no conclusion that could be supported by the Selectmen.  References in our Board of Selectmen's Minutes on-line are as follows: