You may recall a few weeks back, we blogged about who owns the dead — it was in reaction to an impending state statute that would give some municipalities the ability to take control of abandoned cemeteries in their towns. By doing this, it will allow a town to preserve and maintain a graveyard where the owners have either died off, moved away or ceased to exist.
Ruth S. Brown, executive director of the Connecticut Gravestone Network, was kind enough to follow up on this with us. The new law took effect on October 1, 2009 — although it appears that it will take a few months before a local town will officially be able to gain possession of a cemetery.
Here is the full act — An Act Concerning Revisions to Department of Public Health Licensing Statutes — aka 09-232. Great if you’re an insomniac and need a little something to make those eyelids heavy.
For the rest of us, here’s the summary of the part that pertains to abandoned cemeteries —
As passed Oct. lst 2009…. Summary Language for Bill 6678 – section 69 – PA. 232
§ 69 — ABANDONED CEMETERIES
The act allows a municipality to acquire an abandoned cemetery, including ownership of any occupied or unoccupied lots or grave sites in it. Under the act, an abandoned cemetery is one:
1. where no burial has occurred during the previous 40 years and in which the lots or graves have not been maintained during the last 10 years except for maintenance by the municipality;
2. where no lots have been sold in the last 40 years and in which most lots or graves have not been maintained during the last 10 years except for maintenance by the municipality; or
3. where one burial has occurred in the past 40 years when a permit was issued after the burial, if the municipality where the cemetery is located fully complies with the act’s notice requirements and sends the notice to the surviving owner.
The municipality may survey such a cemetery to ascertain its extent. It must use due diligence to identify any owners of the cemetery or any of its lots or grave sites. It must notify the owners of its intention to acquire the cemetery, and if it cannot locate them, it must publish notice of its intention in a newspaper having a general circulation in the municipality. The notice must be published for three successive weeks. It must give a basic description of the cemetery, by reference to the municipality’s tax maps, and set a date and place where the municipality will hear objections to the acquisition.
Any owner who receives the notice may reassert his or her right of ownership over the cemetery, unoccupied or occupied lot, or grave site by sending a written objection to the municipality within 14 days after receiving the notice. Any owner who reasserts his or her rights must promptly comply with all municipal ordinances concerning the cemetery, lot, or grave site.
If the municipality receives no objection within 15 days after the last date the notice was published, title to the cemetery and any lots or graves vests in the municipality. The municipality must (1) record a confirmation of the vesting, including a basic description of the cemetery, on the municipality’s land records; (2) maintain title to the cemetery, which it may not transfer; and (3) maintain the cemetery’s characteristics and make no changes in the use of its land. The municipality may appoint a sexton for the cemetery and appropriate funds for its care, maintenance, and support.
It was great of Ruthie to pass along the info. Now it’ll be interesting to see how many municipalities take advantage of the new law — for those of us who enjoy poking around old graveyards, it gives hope to the prospect of these great places to be around for more generations to experience.