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Braintree councilors approve Blue Hills Cemetery request for crematory

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 25, 2012 11:56 AM

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Braintree town councilors on Tuesday re-voted unanimously to designate land next to the Blue Hills Cemetery administrative offices as "cemetery land," an approval that will allow for a crematory on the land.

Although the cemetery has been operating since the 1890s, the 28 acres on the south side of West Street have never been used for burial purposes. Crematories are permitted only on cemetery land, and on cemeteries that have been in use at least five years. Although this particular land hasn't been used for burials for that time period, the entire cemetery fits those parameters.

Cemetery administrators have already received Board of Health and Conservation Commission approval for the site, yet the Planning Board requested Town Council approval before the process could continue.

At last week's meeting, Mayor Joseph Sullivan recommended the dedication so long as the land was used only for a crematory and not for casket burials. Councilors voted through the measure that night.

Soon thereafter, councilors realized that a printing mistake caused them to be in violation of Open Meeting Law, and had to vote again last night.

Although no councilors had any issues to the proposal, one abutter objected wholeheartedly.

"There are lot of wetlands [here], lot of ledge, it's next to residential area, and it's next to town's water supply," said David Shaw, who lives nearby. "The mayor has said he wanted this and there shouldn't be any casket burials. That's a wise thing to say when you're dealing with [these things], but this is not a cemetery, it won't be used as a cemetery, yet it's coming into this area."

Shaw implied that the regulations for where to build a crematory were in place for a reason, and if the water table was too high for casket burials, then a crematory on the same space may not be wise.

"This isn't a cemetery. They can call it a cemetery but it will fly through and some people will be ok that there is a crematory next to the water supply if you feel this is an appropriate place to have a crematory," Shaw said.

Mike Modestino, an attorney representing the cemetery, said after the meeting that those issues were worked out with the Conservation Commission. According to Modestino, the crematory will have to be built above the FEMA flood plain.

Furthermore, although the project received unanimous council approval last night, it still has a long way to go through the Planning Board approval process. The current zoning of the parcel -- half residential and half commercial -- still needs to be sorted out, as does parking.

It's been a lengthy process to get the crematory built, but a necessary one, Modestino said.

"There's definitely a need," he said. "There were 22 million burials in the US last year. A third of those were cremations. Also, 35 percent of all deaths are cremations, and that number is estimated to go up to 59 percent in the next three years."

According to Modestino, those seeking cremations need to go to Plymouth, Duxbury, or Jamaica Plain for the service.

"There have been funeral directors in touch who have expressed the convenience of having it here," Modestino said. "We're trying to serve the needs of the public."

The issue will return to the Planning Board for discussion on Feb. 7

To read previous articles about this issue, click here and here.

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