Development Review Board May 24, 2021


Minutes of Development Review Board (DRB) May 19, 2021 second session of Zoom-based hearing for natural burial ground within the Manitou project at 300 Sunset Lake Road.

Appellant Present  

Michael Mayer, representing Higher Ground Conservation Cemetery Association

Development Review Board Members Present

David Cotton Chairman; Walter Dadik, Secretary; Hendrik van Loon; Samantha Harlow

Others Present

Merle Tessier, Newfane Zoning Administrator; John and Linda Walker, abutters; Gordon and Jean Bristol, abutters; Judith A. Strom, abutter; Jane Douglas, Newfane Planning Commission, & South Newfane Cemetery Association

Supplemental Written Testimony

Michael Mayer


This was a continuation of the hearing opened on April 28 and recessed until May 12.

The May 12 session was later rescheduled to May 19 because of problems using the Zoom system.

Hearing: held remotely via Zoom  from 6:30 pm to 7:48pm

Mr. Cotton said he would ask for comments from all those present.

There was considerable discussion about how responsibility for reviewing various aspects of the project is divided.  The right of way and Act 250 review were of particular interest.

Mr. Cotton noted there is disagreement about the right of way shown on the subdivision plan and asked how that would affect DRB’s decision.  Mr. Tessier said the disagreement doesn’t affect DRB or the Zoning Administrator.  It is up to the disagreeing parties resolve it.  Meanwhile, the Zoning Administrator is responsible for reviewing the subdivision plan as submitted.

Mr. Walker said he has engaged a surveyor to accurately locate the right of way.

Mr. Bristol believes Act 250 relevant yet there is no record of an application being filed.  He also asked about follow-up to make sure all requirements are met.  Mr. Mayer said he understands what is needed and preparation is well underway.

The problem of verifying all requirements have been met when responsibility is divided between several was discussed.  Mr.  Bristol said he is concerned that there is not what he considers concrete evidence that all applicable state laws and regulations are being considered and respected.  Michael Meyer said he is aware of what his project requires and will make certain the requirements are met.

Mr. Dadik said Vermont statutes do require final approval from the Board of Selectmen

and town Board of Health or equivalent before selling any plots; also, a plat showing

the location of all burial sites must be maintained and filed with the Town Clerk.

Mr. van Loon reminded he group that DRB’s responsibility is limited to matters covered by the Zoning bylaw and they are the focus of this hearing.

Mr. Mayer outlined his operational plans:

  • Minimum alteration of the area’s character
  • Concerted effort to be as non-invasive as possible to the existing landscape and forest
  • Daytime operations only
  • As little operation as possible during mud season or wintertime
  • Hand dug graves wherever possible
  • No mechanical excavating equipment stored on site

Ms. Douglas commented that cemeteries are by nature quiet and tranquil places. She also noted natural burials avoid many of the pollution problems associated with chemical embalming.

Ms. Strom said she is probably the closest neighbor to the site proposed site and sees no intrusion from the proposed burial ground.

There was discussion of parking and the ability to develop the right of way.   A 24 car parking lot accessed via a 20 foot wide right of way is proposed.  Mr. Walker questioned whether the parking lot is consistent with the area. Mr. Mayer said the parking lot sits on an area originally approved by Vermont Land Trust as a residence site which he believes would have been much more invasive.

Mr.  Dadik questioned the single lane right of way.  Mr. Mayer said the width is 20 feet which conforms to the zoning bylaw and minimizes infringement on the environment.  There is also a clear line of sight so safe passage should not be a problem.  Mr. Walker said it may not be possible to develop the full length of the right of way to a 20 foot width without serious negative environmental impact.  There was brief discussion but not enough information to resolve this point.

Mr. van Loon moved that the Board close the evidentiary portion of the hearing and enter closed deliberative session.  The motion was seconded by Ms. Harlow and unanimously passed.

Newfane Development Review Board

Walter Dadik, Secretary

Supplemental material: Written testimony by Michael Mayer, exhibit D