An application has been submitted to Upper Oxford Township for permission to place an Amish Cemetery on the property located at 4775 Homeville Rd. Last week the township's Zoning Hearing Board approved the plans during a public hearing.
Chris Stoltzfus, an Amish farmer who owns the property in question, is planning on placing the cemetery on a one-acre lot, which he would subdivide from his 30-acre lot. The cemetery would then be conveyed to the Amish Church. Stoltzfus' property is zoned R1, which permits cemeteries by special exception and the board approved the application pending a short public hearing, thus foregoing the allotted 45-day review period permitted for the application.
"I'm in favor of it (the cemetery) overall," said Ira Binder, board member.
According to the plans the cemetery would sit back off of Homeville Road on the back of Stoltzfus' property.
"That is just the area we chose," said Stoltzfus. "We wanted to pull it away from the road a little bit and not have it in the middle of the farm."
To access the cemetery, Stoltzfus needs to obtain a permit from PennDOT for a stone right-of-way, which would lead to the cemetery. The right-of-way was added to the application as a flag-lot, and was also approved by the board.
The cemetery would sit adjacent to the property at 4386 Newark Rd., the owner of which was present to ask questions of the plans. Concerns were raised about the setback requirements of the cemetery to neighboring properties. Stoltzfus then pointed out that though there are no setback requirements in the township's ordinances, he was planning to place a fence 10 feet from the property line and push back the burial line 100 feet. Once mentioned, those setbacks were placed as conditions in the board's approval of the application. Those conditions laid to rest the neighbor's concerns.
However, another neighbor, the owner of the property at 4376 Newark Rd., asked what kind of impact the cemetery would have on neighboring water supplies. The board then explained that even if approved by Zoning, the Pennsylvania Department of Heath would determine any health impacts the cemetery might create prior to final approval.
According to Stoltzfus, the cemetery will contain flat gravestones, as well as a hitch rail at the rear of the property for horses, which would allow them to stay in the shade.
After hearing resident's concerns, as well as the specifics of the application, the board unanimously approved the application. Now it will go before the supervisors and the remaining subdivision land development process.
James Gordon, chairman of the Board of Supervisors was present at the hearing with fellow Supervisor Charles Fleischmann. When asked by the Zoning Hearing Board whether the supervisors had any objection to the application, Gordon responded, "We (the supervisors) took a position where we are definitely not opposing it, but we are leaving it to the discretion of the Zoning Hearing Board."