PEPPER PIKE — Mayor Richard Bain announced plans to close two city cemeteries on Pinetree Road after he found out that both cemeteries are full. More than 40 people already paid for a spot, and City Council passed an ordinance last week to refund deposits and allow only interment of cremations, he said.

Service Director Bob Girardi and Mayor Bain agreed that they were not sure how full each cemetery was, so they reached out to a company that performs sonar soundings of cemeteries to determine available space. The test revealed that there are no open spaces left, the mayor said.

“[This] created a situation where it became obvious to us that we needed to stop accepting any reservations,” he said. “We are closing the cemetery for any future registrations to be buried there. We are faced with a certain dilemma that there are people who have had longstanding deposits with the city to be buried there.”

Mayor Bain said that the cemetery near Heinen’s on Pinetree has not accepted burials for years, even since before he took office in 2012. The other cemetery, located on a hill further east on Pinetree, has continued to accept burials. Both cemeteries are owned and managed by the city.

After Mayor Bain met with Mr. Girardi, Law Director Steve Byron and Finance Director Joe Brodzinski, city officials came up with two options. The first option is to refund $350, including the $250 burial fee and modest additional funds. If a person still wants to be buried at the cemetery on the hill, the mayor said, only cremated remains would be accepted.

Councilman Jim LeMay asked if there was a risk of encountering other graves if the city continues to bury people at the cemeteries. The mayor said that he is concerned about that. Mayor Bain also said that there is a moral and ethical dilemma with burying people on top of other graves.

Although double burials are legal and common, Mayor Bain said, the deceased in the cemeteries never consented for that to take place.

“We think that’s a fair resolution for those people,” Mayor Bain said. “We will fulfill our commitment to bury them there but the city is most comfortable just closing the cemeteries.”

Mr. LeMay asked if the people who paid their deposits already have a contractual right to be buried in the cemetery. Mr. Byron explained how the law works since the cemetery is owned by the city.

“It’s a municipal facility. It’s a right that they have purchased and the right is held pursuant to the ordinance,” Mr. Byron said. “The equitable aspect is that you’re refunding a larger deposit, so there’s some repayment there.”

Councilman Anthony Gentile asked how recently the last sale took place for the cemetery on the hill. Mayor Bain said that a sale was made earlier this year.

The mayor explained that both cemeteries are a couple hundred years old and some of the original settlers of Orange Township are buried there. City service department employees complete the interments at both municipal cemeteries.

Mr. Girardi said that he is aware of three or four interments throughout his 20-year career in Pepper Pike.

Mayor Bain said that there are some places where the sonar test indicated that a person is buried but there is no gravestone. He said that he would like to take on a project to figure out who is buried in unmarked graves to honor those people.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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