- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) - The idea of “green burials” is becoming more popular, and because of this, people are more aware that it is legal to bury their loved ones on their own property.

According to Kathleen Ryan, general counsel and chief operating officer of the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association, “There is no law in Pennsylvania against burying on private property.”

A local matter

Since Pennsylvania allows burial on private property, restrictions are left up to ordinances by counties and municipalities. In Butler County there are no ordinances regarding private burials so it comes down to the townships to decide if they will allow bodies to be buried on private property.

In March 2012, county Coroner William F. Young III sent out a letter to each township in the county saying that the state and the county have no laws against private burials. He asked for the townships to respond to him with their ordinances on burials.

In his letter, Young said, “As ‘burying green’ becomes more popular families question whether their loved ones can be buried on private property rather than in an established cemetery.”

Many of the townships have ordinances for cemeteries, but this does not include burial on private property.

There are a few townships that prohibit burials on private property, including Butler, Cranberry and Marion.

In the response letter from Marion Township, Michele Burd, secretary, quoted the township ordinance, “It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to establish a cemetery or to bury any person within the township except in an established cemetery presently in existence.”

Others such as Buffalo and Center townships do not have specific ordinances prohibiting burial on private property, but they do have guidelines that must be followed.

Middlesex Township manager Scot Fodi responded with “Cemeteries are subject to: A. a minimum of 10 acres shall be required B. a drainage plan shall be submitted with the application for the use to show existing and proposed runoff characteristics C. A ground water study prepared by a hydrologist or registered professional engineer qualified to perform such studies shall be submitted with an application.”

In the response letter from Brady Township, Candace Campbell, secretary and treasurer, said, “At the present time Brady Township has no regulations or ordinances regarding cemeteries or burials in the back yard on private property.”

Oakland, Parker, Venango and Worth townships also responded with similar letters saying that they do not have ordinances about burial on private property.

Burial on family farm

Hilma Salamone of Brady Township buried her husband, Vito, in December on their family farm.

“I wanted him buried here. My son is also buried here,” Salamone said.

She pointed out that when she was in her early 20s, she helped her husband, who was a grave digger.

“I used to dig graves and saw how some cemeteries took care of them, and I decided I wanted to be buried on my own property,” she said.

To be buried at home, the same paperwork is filled out as if the family was burying the person in a cemetery.

“I had to have a burial certificate and turn in a burial form,” Salamone said.

‘Depth of grave’ limit

While burials are primarily a local matter, the state does have some regulations that must be followed.

According to the Information on State Laws and Regulations Governing Cemeteries in Pennsylvania, “The burial, regardless of whether in an established cemetery, the backyard, or the family farm must comply with the state’s ‘depth-of-grave’ requirements.”

People may be familiar with the 6-foot deep graves used by most cemeteries. However, that is not the depth requirement from the state.

According to the Information on State Laws and Regulations Governing Cemeteries in Pennsylvania, “If there is not an outer case, and there is just a coffin or just the body with no coffin, then the item buried must be deeper than 2 feet from the natural surface of the ground.”

Cemeteries bury caskets deeper than the regulations because of the heavy machinery they use to dig graves and to maintain lawns. There also is the issue of the ground freezing and thawing in the winter, which causes caskets in the ground to be pushed to the surface.

Possible problem later

Burying a loved one on family property is not for everyone, especially if the property is sold later.

It’s hard to sell property with graves. Anyone who buries a loved one on his property has to have it recorded on a deed. That may make the property value decline.

Also, if the family moves often, they would have to pay to move their loved ones to a new location.

Those costs can be in the thousands of dollars, according to Young.

“It’s usually double the cost to relocate than it was to bury originally,” he said.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1gN96GX

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Information from: Butler Eagle, https://www.butlereagle.com


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