Thursday, December 27, 2018

Taking a Look at House Bill 454 -"Require township to reimburse owner of unused cemetery lot"

Sharing a story from the "Sandusky Register"

By Tom Jackson, Staff Reporter

"SANDUSKY — Gov. John Kasich signed a new law by Rep. Steve Ardnt, R-Port Clinton, making it easier for Ohio townships to deal with long-unused cemetery lots.
The bill should make it easier for Ohioans to buy a cemetery lot near the final resting place of their loved ones, and also will aid townships dealing with unused space in cemeteries, said Arndt and state Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, the two main authors of the bill.
Under existing law, townships had the right to take possession of unused cemetery lots sold after 1986, but not lots sold before then. This had the effect of leaving many townships unable to take back and resell cemetery lots that had been vacant and unused for decades.
Patterson, a retired history teacher, learned about the problem when a constituent told him he wanted to buy a cemetery lot near the burial location of his relatives. The township told him it couldn’t sell him a lot, even though it had vacant space, Arndt said.
Patterson needed a co-sponsor because he’s a Democrat in the Republican-dominated House, and Arndt, a longtime county commissioner in Ottawa County who remains interested in local government issues, agreed to help.

Under HB 454, the measure Kasich recently signed, a cemetery lot sold before 1986 can be reclaimed by a township if it’s still vacant. The township first has to provide notice to the owner, giving him or her 180 days to object.
If the owner still wants the lot, the township has to let him keep it, give the owner another lot or provide compensation.
“I was proud to vote in support of this legislation,” Arndt said. “House Bill 454 would allow townships to better utilize open space in the cemetery lots and assist more Ohioans in obtaining burial plots beside their loved ones.”
Arndt said it’s very common for townships in Ohio to operate local cemeteries.
In fact, many private cemeteries, particularly old ones, wind up being acquired by townships so that the cemeteries can continue to be properly maintained, Arndt said."

House Bill 454 - 

 "To amend sections 517.07 and 517.073 of the Revised Code to require a township to offer compensation to responsive owners of certain unused cemetery lots and rights. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio: SECTION 1. That sections 517.07 and 517.073 of the Revised Code be amended to read as follows: Sec. 517.07. Upon application, the board of township trustees shall sell at a reasonable price the number of lots as public wants demand for burial purposes. Purchasers of lots or other interment rights, upon complying with the terms of sale, may receive deeds for the lots or rights which the board shall execute and which shall be recorded by the township fiscal officer in a book for that purpose. The expense of recording shall be paid by the person receiving the deed. Upon the application of a head of a family living in the township, the board shall, without charge, make and deliver to the applicant a deed for a suitable lot or right for the interment of the applicant's family, if, in the opinion of the board and by reason of the circumstances of the family, the payment would be oppressive." ...
"As Passed by the Senate 132nd General Assembly Regular Session Sub. H. B. No. 454 2017-2018"

 Representatives Patterson, Arndt Cosponsors:

 Representatives Ashford, Seitz, Becker, Reece, Hambley, Holmes, Boyd, Brown, Anielski, Antonio, Barnes, Craig, Green, Lepore-Hagan, Miller, O'Brien, Perales, Rogers, Sheehy, Sprague Senators Coley, Eklund, Gardner, Hoagland, Lehner, Manning, O'Brien, Peterson, Schiavoni, Tavares, Terhar, Thomas, Uecker, Williams, Wilson, Yuko

"To amend sections 517.07 and 517.073 of the Revised Code to require a township to offer compensation to responsive owners of certain unused cemetery lots and rights."
"... the board of township trustees shall have right of reentry to the cemetery lot or right if the notification requirements are not met. At least ninety days before establishing reentry, the board shall publish a notice on the board's internet website, if applicable, and shall send a notice by certified mail to the last known owner at the owner's last known address to inform the owner that the owner's interest in the lot or right will cease unless the notification requirements are met. If the owner's address is unknown and cannot reasonably be obtained, it is sufficient to publish the notice once in a newspaper of general circulation in the county. In order to establish reentry, the board shall pass a resolution stating that the conditions of the sale or of the deed have not been fulfilled, and that the board reclaims its interest in the lot or right."
Sharing Some of My Thoughts:
As someone who has purchased my cemetery plots in 1992, I have mixed feelings (and emotions!) about this legislation that has recently been signed into law.  Thankfully, my plots are not at a township cemetery; because this legislation appears to affect ONLY township cemeteries.  
This is legislation that I feel bears reading and re-reading so there is a clear understanding of what could happen, particularly at a long inactive cemetery (no burials within the past 25 calendar years). 
There is one plus side to this new law should a new burial take place in an inactive cemetery because it would then change the cemetery's status to being Active.  By being an active cemetery due to a new burial, the township trustees would have to register that cemetery with the Department of Real Estate.
As we know, the Department of Real Estate's Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission only accepts complaints submitted about Active cemeteries that are registered or Active cemeteries that should be registered but are not due to a lapse of registration when a cemetery becomes 'orphaned' by its owners (i.e. citing the following examples: 
Floral Hills Memory Gardens in Chillicothe and Circleville; and Fairview Memorial Park in Delaware County and Grandview Memorial Park in Ravenna, Ohio.)
Some Considerations:Someone who wishes to be buried next to an ancestor should consider possible risks that could occur in the actual process, such as:

1. Damage to the ancestor's fragile marker.  

2.  Perhaps even actual destruction of an ancestor's marker if it were to topple over in the process of digging and preparation for the new gravesite next to it.  

  3.  Are the township trustees trained well enough to handle these types of new interments so close to pioneer ancestor gravesites put in place so long ago?  

  4.  Do the township trustees have the proper maps, burial records and surveys to prove that there really isn't an unmarked grave that no one knows about in the location where the new gravesite is supposed to be dug?

5.  Regarding No. 4:  
If unsure, will GPR (ground penetrating radar) be done to determine that the proposed new gravesite is indeed viable for the interment?  
If so, who is to bear the cost for GPR?

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