A Clancy man wants to build a mausoleum on his land, sparking a discussion about burials on private property in Jefferson County.
The Jefferson County Commissioners are considering adding a provision for a variance to a 2005 ordinance that allows property owners to bury their dead on private land. In this case, Steve Wilson of Travis Creek in Clancy has asked to build a six-by-eight foot brick or stone mausoleum, with that being housed within a 12x16 foot building. The building would be timber with an outside veneer of stone, said Wilson.
“A very simple building,” he said.
In his letter to the Commission, Wilson said he and his wife have spent 20 years improving their property and they would like to be buried there. The concern is if either he or his wife dies in the winter, the remote location of their property would make it difficult to perform an in-ground burial.
“The thought of either of us dying during winter and having to be stored in a refrigerated vault in town, for months, weighs on me,” wrote Wilson.
Wilson said his 160 acre property is remote, with the nearest neighbor about a half mile away and the main road being two miles away and over two major hills.
There is no way to get a backhoe out here, he said.
The county’s 2005 ordinance allows for burials on private property, with some requirements, such as making proper notification and recording by local officials, that the grave be marked and follow specific size and depth guidelines. It does not include a provision for above-ground mausoleums.
The ordinance was created 15 years ago when a resident in the northern part of the county wanted to create a burial area on his property, according to the Commission.
Since the ordinance was passed, there have been three burials on private property, according to Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Bonnie Ramey.
The ordinance points out that there are cemeteries set aside for burials, and once set aside as such, are designed to remain
“Those contemplating private property burial should consider the extent to which the burial ground will remain sacred to future owners of the property,” according to the ordinance.
Wilson said that he plans to put the land into a nature conservancy as part of his estate, so it will not be subdivided as long as the taxes are paid on the property. And with a new building, he added, it could mean more tax revenue for the county.
During the June 30 Commission meeting, there was initially a discussion on amending the ordinance outright to include mausoleums, but the Commissioners then thought a variance request would be a better solution.
“I don’t want everybody erecting a shed and burying grandma,” said Commissioner Bob Mullen.
One suggestion for a variance request for a mausoleum is that the applicant provide plans for the structure. If the resolution is to be amended, it would require a public hearing, said Jefferson County Attorney Steve Haddon.
Montana law does not prohibit the burial of human remains on private property.