Commission hears zoning request for Natural (Green) Cemetery

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2019

On Tuesday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners heard a request for a special use permit for all or part of 3570 Mooty Bridge Road in order to allow its owners, Jean Howard and Ralph Howard Etal, to operate a natural or green cemetery on the property.

The property owners had initially requested that the entire 97.16 acre and 45 acre parcels be approved for the use, but the Troup County Board of Planning and Zoning Approvals recommended that 20 acres be approved for the use initially. The recommendation would require the brother and sister business partners to submit a new request if additional space is needed. The property owners asked that the board of commissioners approve the special use for the full property.

“The reason that we decided to ask for 145 acres is not because we envision 145 acres of burial ground initially, but because we do envision people parking on the farm — I call Jean’s property the farm and mine the trust,” Etal said. “We envision using those properties. One of the properties has stables. We envision having horses in the stables and as one of the services to offer to mortuaries in the future to have a horse-drawn hearse to draw the people out into the field. It is hard to just limit yourself to just 20 acres. You have to put [in] parking and the stables and so forth.”

Because the cemetery would be specifically for green burials, no embalming fluids would be used on the bodies buried there, and the owners said that grave markers would be almost flat and invisible from the road, thus maintaining the character of the area.

Additionally, the owners would be required to meet certain state licensing requirements for the cemetery.

“You have to survey off an exact, specific parcel, have that survey recorded, have the name of the cemetery and everything on there that designates it as a cemetery plat recorded, and that plat is part of what is sent to the secretary of state’s office for what is licensed,” Senior Building Official Jay Anderson said. “You are already licensed for what that plat lays out, and they would like to have the approval for the whole two parcels, but that they would start with 10 to 20 acres for the first section being licensed and surveyed off.”

Anderson outlined some of the regulations meant to protect those who buy gravesites at privately-owned cemeteries, including a state approved set of rules for the cemetery and a trust fund for the perpetual care of the location. Etal said that the involvement of multiple stakeholders will also protect those planning to be buried in the cemetery.

A number of residents from the area near the property were in attendance at the meeting, and Anderson said that he had spoken to residents about concerns, including impact on ground water. Anderson said that parking and traffic from the cemetery are not expected to have a significant impact on the area, due to adequate on-site parking and the expected frequency of use for funerals.

Other items covered during the meeting included:

  • The Troup County Board of Commissioners recognized TCSO Deputies Michael Hockett and Anthony Smith for life saving efforts. The board also recognized Josh Miller, Joy Burnham and Jason Ritter for achieving Senior Deputy Certification through Georgia Peace Officer Safety and Training.
  • The board approved a mobile home application on Woodyard Road.
  • The board of commissioners approved an entertainment II establishment application for Highland Pines Resort and Marina. The business has had the license since 2007, and the approval would allow the license to move to the new owner.
  • The commission voted to allow for the reapplication of the Juvenile Justice Incentive Grant.
  • The commission approved a request to fill the budgeted full-time position of a Troup County parks maintenance worker.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, April 16 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Avenue.