June 6 Hearing Set for New Cemetery Rules

By Nick Reiher

Those who have questions or comments about the county’s possible change in zoning guidelines for new cemeteries will have their day before the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 6.
The PZC hearing that day is the first step for county officials to consider changing back to requiring special use permits for new cemeteries. The County Board ended special use requirements in those cases in 2012.
A special use in a certain zoning designation requires a public hearing and may result in denial, approval or approval with conditions recommended by Will County Land Use staff. All cases still must be approved by the full County Board.
Without the special use designation, The Muslim Cemetery was able to acquire permits for initial development of a new cemetery on 40 acres along Meader Road, just north of U.S. 6 in Homer Township.
The 40 acres is zoned R-2 residential, allowing for homes in and around the prospective cemetery property. A subdivision annexed to the Village of Homer Glen also is nearby.
Without the special use requirement, officials from The Muslim Cemetery were able to acquire permits from the county without the need to notify surrounding residents of the plan.
Along with county Land Use staff, Homer Township officials were aware of the cemetery plans, because cemetery officials also needed permits from the township road commissioner to work on an access road on the permitted 5 acres.
As word got out, Homer Glen Mayor Christina Neitzke-Troike called a town hall meeting May 2 where more than 200 people attended to share their concerns, focusing mostly on the lack of notification and concerned about groundwater, since those village residents near the cemetery are on well and septic.
They also were concerned because the Muslim tradition does not preserve the bodies with chemicals or use caskets and concrete vaults.
The county officials on the dais that evening had few answers, since no one could remember the last time a new cemetery was created in the county.
New Lenox Township Supervisor Cass Wennlund, who lives in the area and has practiced land use law for 30 years, urged residents to demand their County Board members seek a text amendment to the land use regulations that would restore public hearings and notification for all cemeteries.
Among those attending was County Board Member Frankie Pretzel, R-New Lenox, chair of the board’s Land Use Committee. After a long discussion at that meeting, the committee voted to recommend a change that would require a special use to develop a new cemetery.
Those who want to weigh in on the issue can attend the June 6 PZC hearing, which begins at 6:30 p.m. and is held in the County Board Room of the County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet.
Written comments can be submitted before the hearing by email at [email protected], faxing them to 815-774-7908, or by sending them to the Will County Land Use Department, Development Review Services Division, 58 E. Clinton St. – Suite 100, Joliet, IL 60432.
If the special use requirement is reinstated for cemeteries, county officials say it would not affect the 5 acres already permitted by the county to be developed. No one is certain what could happen with the remaining 35 acres.

 

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