Chesterton Tribune



St. Patrick cemetery to be enlarged under negotiated BZA compromise

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St. Patrick Church won unanimous approval Thursday to expand its Catholic cemetery on South Calumet Road, but conditions were attached.

The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-0 with member Thomas Browne absent.

The approved use variance allows an eventual expansion of approximately 2,000 new burial sites that will begin being occupied on the east side of the irregularly shaped expansion parcel, farthest away from Westchester Court neighbors.

Westchester, a short east/west street north of the cemetery, ends in a large cul-de-sac with homes around its perimeter. The church committed not to occupy new graves nearest specified homes until 2024 and until 2034 for others.

The church estimates about 30 to 35 burials a year. The existing cemetery has only a few burial sites left.

Other concessions were to leave existing trees behind some homes for now but to install a 20 foot-wide landscape buffer behind the homes with open space. A planted buffer also would be added when the tree line is affected by development of that cemetery section.

Church pastor the Rev. James Meade said the proposed conditions benefit both sides. “I don’t believe (our parishioners) want to be buried in somebody’s back yard.”

The type of buffer --- bermed or not and what type of trees/conifers/shrubs to use ---- would be at the discretion of the town engineer. Chesterton has a tree ordinance in place.

Fr. Meade and members of a parish committee met earlier this month with Westchester Court neighbors who had remonstrated against the zoning variance during a Nov. 26 BZA public hearing.

Last night BZA president Rodney Corder invited additional public comment on the revised plans but no one spoke. Corder thanked Fr. Meade for his efforts to reach a compromise.

Neighbors had been concerned about loss of privacy and property values. Church attorney Greg Babcock presented national real-estate data showing sales of residential properties still occur near cemeteries.

The final plan as accepted will allow the single road in the 1920 cemetery to be extended and widened to more than twice its width around an existing grotto, now an especially tight turn for hearses.

Babcock said as for the existing forested area, “I understand if it stayed natural, it would be great, but it’s a natural extension of the cemetery (and) it’s not that we can satisfy the neighbors 100 percent.”

The church expansion parcel includes a lot with direct access to Westchester Court, but the church committed last month that the lot would not be developed for burials or cemetery access.


Posted 12/27/2013




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