Homer Township: Residents Concerned About Street Parking Near New Cemetery

Homer Township

By Nick Reiher

Residents living near a newly established Muslim cemetery have contacted Will County officials about parking on the street near their homes during large services.

Last April, officials from The Muslim Cemetery acquired permits for initial development of a new cemetery on 40 acres along Meader Road, just north of U.S. 6 in Homer Township. Cemetery officials have said there could be ultimately 24,000 graves on the site.

The 40 acres are 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.

The County Board eliminated the need for Special Use Permits for cemeteries when overhauling its zoning regulations in 2012.

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, have a county hearing or final consideration by the Will County Board.

The County Board last August reinstated the special use requirements for cemeteries. But The Muslim Cemetery and its future plans are grandfathered.

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.

At the board’s April 4 Executive Committee meeting, Board Chair Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, said they had received many complaints from residents near the cemetery who said parking on the street during large services was a hazard.

Board Member Steve Balich, R-Homer Glen, who also is Homer Township supervisor, said the road commissioner there has let area funeral home representatives know he would be having vehicles parked on the street towed.

“No one wants to see cars towed when the families are already grieving,” said Board Member Frankie Pretzel, R-Frankfort, chair of the board’s Land Use Committee. He wondered about other parking options.

Brian Radner, Director of Development Services for Will County Land Use, said the initial permit for the cemetery allowed for 20 spaces. He said they could work with cemetery officials to see if they could squeeze in more on already developed land.

He noted Phase 2 of the cemetery includes parking for 102 vehicles. They have received an application for the Phase 2 permit, which covers development of the remaining 35 acres.

But he said they are waiting for approval from the Homer Township road commissioner an access road to begin work.

Ogalla suggested cemetery officials let the neighborhood and the Sheriff’s Department know when large services are scheduled.

Attorney Mike Martin, representing The Muslim Cemetery, said they are working with the Sheriff’s Department on a contract for handling traffic control for larger services.

As a side note, Board Member Jackie Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, said she received a call from a resident near the cemetery who was aghast that plots were being left open.

Traynere said she investigated and learned cemetery officials dug a number of plots last year before the ground froze to prepare for winter burials.

The open plots do not contain any bodies, she said, which would be an abomination to the Muslims.

“So you know, in case you get any calls,” she said.

Last year, residents near the cemetery were not only surprised by the plans, but extremely concerned about the Muslim practice of burial shrouded only in a sheet, with no coffin or concrete vault.

The issue led to a lengthy discussion about potential leaching into the groundwater and private wells. But there has been no further action on that topic since.

While establishment of Muslim cemeteries elsewhere has had overtones of religious intolerance, residents in this case insist they are concerned only about safety.

One person who attempted to bring up the issue of religious discrimination at a town hall meeting in Homer Glen last year was shouted down by the large group attending.

Nick Reiher is editor of Farmers Weekly Review.

 

 

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