Council rejects church application for cemetery due to objections from neighbours

MAPLETON – Township council rejected a zoning amendment to permit a cemetery on property owned by a local church after hearing delegations from local residents opposed to the proposal at the Sept. 12 meeting.

The proposed cemetery was to be located on property owned by the Markham Waterloo Mennonite Conference, at 109 Ruth Anne Place in a rural subdivision in the former township of Maryborough.

An application to revise the current zoning to permit a cemetery was previously presented at a public meeting on March 21.

At the public meeting, concerns raised by the public included ground water protection and land use compatibility.

A staff report from the Mapleton planning department explains that, based on the comments and concerns raised at the pubic meeting, the applicant has revised the proposal to include:

  • reduction in cemetery plots from 472 to 210;
  • plans for a dense coniferous (cedar) buffer around the cemetery to provide a visual screening from neighbouring properties;
  • a geotechnical investigation report; and
  • a letter from Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health stating the area is suitable for use as a cemetery.

“I really don’t have much to say as we already had previous issues discussed and we feel that we have addressed some of them,” said Clifford Bowman, who delegated on behalf of the application.

“We are just waiting for see what council has to say on this matter.”

In a separate delegation, neighbouring resident David Head told council, “I’m not opposed to the church having a cemetery. I’m just opposed to where they want to put the cemetery.”

Head noted the subject lands are governed by the Grand River Conservation Authority, “which stated no fences are to be installed in the subdivision because it’s in a wildlife path.”

“There are no provisions in the subdivision agreement that we all signed to allow for this type of development,” he added.

“Therefore, the owners purchased in good faith and are taxed according to the style of the subdivision itself, which was supposed to be executive homes.

“The placement of the cemetery would devalue the current homes in this development.”

Head said the applicants own numerous properties in the area “and should they want a cemetery they should consider applying for the cemetery permit on one of their own properties.

“I’m quite sure they will be fine with this type of construction near their homes … They seem to think that it’s okay to place this near our homes,” he stated.

“And we agree we do not want their cemetery near ours. The increased traffic would increase the risk for children living in this subdivision.”

Another subdivision resident, Ross Deal, said approving the cemetery would negate a choice made by local residents when purchasing their homes.

“When we first purchased the property back six some odd years ago … we were told at that time that the zoning was going to be for a church only and there was not going to be a cemetery,” said Deal.

During discussion on the planning department report, councillor Michael Martin indicated he was surprised to see the revised proposal put forward.

“Regarding this application, to be honest, I didn’t anticipate seeing it back before council again,” Martin said.

“But I think … procedurally, the way we addressed it the last time allows for this.”

While stating, “I fully respect the applicants request for having a cemetery, Martin noted, “the uniqueness about this particular application is that council of the day, when the church was approved in the first place, saw fit not to include a cemetery.

“So I do think there is merit to the concerns of the neighbotrhood. They are overwhelming in the unhappiness with the proposition of having a cemetery there for lots of different reasons.”

Martin said, for him, the matter comes down to timing.

“If there was going to be a cemetery built or placed on this particular property, it should have been back in the day when the subdivision was being created,” he stated.

Councillor Amanda Reid said she respected the applicants’ request and acknowledged their efforts to address concerns.

“However, there’s been an overwhelming amount of people that live in that same community that have shown that it’s not something they ever thought would happen there because it was never supposed to,” said Reid.

“And I also agree that I wouldn’t support putting it there knowing that originally it wasn’t part of the plan.”

A motion to consider the adoption of a draft bylaw permitting the cemetery was unanimously defeated by council.