Oregon Planning Commission approves family cemetery

Kelly J. Kaczala

        The Oregon Planning Commission at its last meeting on April 21 approved of a Conditional Use permit in an A-1 Agricultural Zoned District for a family cemetery at 1745 S. Wynn Road.
        Greg and Julie Hillabrand are the applicants. They want to bury their deceased infant, Griffin, in their backyard.
        Inspector Mark P. Kelly said the cemetery is going to be located between the Hillabrand’s house and a pond on a five acre parcel.
        The Project Review Committee did not have any opposition to the application, said Kelly.
        Family cemeteries on private property was common in the past, he said.
        A condition of the permit is that the Hillabrands are required to exhume the remains if they ever sell their house, said Kelly.
        Planning Commission Chairman Scott Winckowski asked James Gilmore, commissioner of building & zoning, if the city had ever done anything similar in the past.
        “This is new for us,” said Gilmore. “It has been done in the past. I just was not aware of it.”
        City Administrator Mike Beazley had done research on the matter, which showed it has been done in the past, but Gilmore said he personally was unaware of such cases.
        Mayor Mike Seferian, who has a seat on the planning commission, said it has been done in the past. Agricultural zoned property only requires a Conditional Use Permit, he said.
        “Other zoning properties would require more permits than this would,” said Seferian. He added he had no objections, particularly since the Hillabrands have said they would exhume the remains if they ever sold the property.
        The Hillabrands had triplets in December. Griffin passed away in March. His two sisters are still fighting and “are not out of the woods yet,” said Greg Hillabrand. He and his wife wanted to memorialize their son with interment of his remains on the family property.        
        “This is what my wife wanted. This is what I wanted. We thought this would be the best thing for us,” he said.
        Ben Sutter, an attorney for the Hillabrands, said there was a statutory exception for a family cemetery in the Ohio Revised Code.
        “It is a practice of tradition. It is not something that is done very readily anymore. But it is still a valid exception in the Ohio Revised Code,” said Sutter. “Further, the Oregon administrative code allows for cemeteries in A-1 districts with Conditional Use, which is why we are all here. My client has, in fact, spent a great deal of resources to make this possible. The whole point of this is to allow the child to not only remain with his mom and dad, but also with his two sisters, who are still alive and still fighting. They want them to grow up together, and to be together as much as possible, which I think any mom and dad who have ever gone through anything like this understands.”
        In addition, the Hillabrands have gone through the estate planning process “to make sure that all the intents that are being discussed at the meeting will be fully carried out,” said Sutter.
        “The property will be cared for, the gravesite will be cared for. They have expended additional funds with the funeral services to make sure it is a smooth process for the maintenance and for the disinterment if that should ever need to be done,” said Sutter.
        The building and zoning department received one letter from Samantha Erdmann, a neighbor of the S. Wynn Road site, stating she and her husband had no problems with the Conditional Use for a family cemetery.
         Planning Commission member Rick Orovitz asked Sutter what would be the conditions on the sale of the property in 100 years.
        Sutter said a trust has been set up so the property will be maintained.
        “As long as a Hillabrand family member is willing to live on the property, then they will do so under the condition that they maintain the gravesite. If a Hillabrand family member cannot afford to maintain it, or if there was ever a reason that the house would have to be sold, the parents have set aside specific funds to disinter those remains to be buried with them. The whole point of this is so the family can stay together as a family,” said Sutter.
        “So the intent is not to have this as a family cemetery to be expanded upon years and years down the road?” asked Orovitz.
        “This is meant for my wife, myself, my current daughters and any future children we would have. And that is strictly it,” said Hillabrand. The trust fund will maintain the property for many years.
        “We’ll have enough money set aside to fund the trust and maintain everything for hundreds of years,” he said.
        The Planning Commission voted 5-0 to approve the Conditional Use Permit with the caveat that any remains that are interred on the property stay with the family if the family leaves the premises.


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