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article imageProspective Property Buyer Stirs Controversy over Moving Cemetery

By Andi Bryant     Feb 16, 2008 in Environment
A prospective buyer of a 150-acre Hartland farm in Vermont has stirred controversy by proposing to move a small graveyard that sits on the property once the property has been purchased. Moving the cemetery would accommodate new house construction.
While 61 year old J. Michael Guite feels that it is "improper to have a reminder of the sadness of life so near where children are playing", referring to property he is plannning to purchase and erect a farm house and barn on, the opposition says that moving the small cemetery is disrespectful to the deceased. Both sides had their chance to voice their concerns at a Probate Court hearing on Thursday heard by Judge Joanne Ertel.
Jim Bulmer, a member of the American Legion and an oppositional voice said, "I think the idea of moving a cemetery for the construction of a house is the most absurd idea I've ever heard".
The graves behind the controversy belong to a veteran of the War of 1812 named Aldrich who was buried in 1848, and two Aldrich granddaughters, both buried in the small cemetery in 1850. More recently, there are also cremated remains of Jerome King's parents, who once owned the property. King is also opposed to the cemetery's move.
The plan is to move only the three Aldrich graves and headstones. Because Guite has no intention of moving King's parents, he feels that King has no legal voice to his moving the cemetery. "It seems to me an odd thing that the Buddhists, who respect the dead, would approve of the removal of the dead," King said.
The property currently belongs to the Unified Buddhist Church and the sale-purchase agreement is contingent on the moving of the graves, in which the church is in support of. Guite's plan is to move the graves and headstones to a different location within the same property.
Marcia Neal, a great-great-great-granddaughter of Aldrich who lives in Colorado wrote a letter to the court objecting to the removal of the remains of her relatives from their resting spots. Guite's attorney, George Lamb objected to the written objection, stating that "she did not meet the requirements to be an interested party who had a right to object".
"I'm not sure this situation falls neatly in the statutes. It refers to bodies, not a good portion of an entire cemetery", Judge Ertel said. "I think the statute contemplates there will be living immediate family and there aren't. There's no one to protect or respond to any interest of the family".
Current Vermont law states that immediate family, that being spouses, parents, siblings or children of the deceased, can block such a move, however, given the dates of the deaths, none exist within that range. Judge Ertel gave Neal interested party status, and until March 6 for Neal and King to file an objection with the court.
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