[Adopted 8-12-1997 by Ord. No. 1013 (Secs. 16B-1 to 16B-9 of the 1979 Code)]
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- The owner of the land on which an archaeological burial site or family cemetery is located for which a permit must be sought for alteration or removal.
- ARCHAEOLOGICAL BURIAL SITE
- An area of land which has been used for the interment of human remains in prehistoric or distant past. Archaeological burial sites may include Native American Indian or other ethnic groupings.
- FAMILY CEMETERY
- A historic cemetery which is not associated with a specific religious organization but which is the site of burial for persons related by blood, marriage, or household.
- Any tract of land which has been for more than 100 years used as a burial place, whether or not marked with a historic marker or gravestone, including but not limited to ancient burial places known or suspected to contain the remains of one or more Native American Indians. For the purposes of this article a "historic cemetery" shall also include an area 25 feet in width around the perimeter of the cemetery proper.
- HISTORIC REMAINS
- Any parts or remains of deceased humans including skeletal remains or cremated ashes.
- HUMAN CEMETERY
- Any site where human remains have been purposefully interred. The term shall also include grave markers, funerary objects, and associated cultural remains and artifacts. A grave shall also include mausoleums, crypts, or other structures designed to house or contain human remains.
- LEAST DISRUPTIVE MEANS
- A means of construction, excavation, removal or any other activity which, in the opinion of the State of Rhode Island Preservation Commission, has the least overall destructive impact on the grave, human remains or cemetery.
- The owner of a parcel of land.
- RELIGIOUS CEMETERY
- Any cemetery owned or maintained by a religious organization.
- RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION
- The organization representing the adherents of any religious society.
- SITE ALTERATION PLAN
- A document showing in written text and by illustration or drawing the proposed alteration of a historic cemetery, archaeological burial site or family cemetery, including detailed specifications for alteration, removal, and re-internment of human remains.
- The Town of Johnston, Rhode Island, its agents, or officers.
It shall be unlawful for any person to disturb, disrupt, excavate, deposit fill in or on, remove or destroy grave markers, burial objects, or buried human remains, or conduct any other activities which would damage or diminish the integrity of any historical cemetery or archaeological burial site or family cemetery without first obtaining therefor a permit to alter or remove such historical cemetery or archaeological burial site or family cemetery from the Town Council of the Town of Johnston.
Once a discovery of a previously unknown burial site is made, the owner or contractor shall immediately notify the Johnston Building Inspector, who in turn shall contact the State Medical Examiner and State Historical Preservation Commission pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 23-18-1 et seq.
The Town shall require the cessation of construction activities pending preliminary verification of the property as a human burial site by the State Medical Examiner or Historic Preservation Commission. If the site is verified as a human burial site, work within 25 feet of the site shall be halted unless or until a permit to alter or remove is issued by the Town pursuant to this article.
The owner shall be required at his/her expense to conduct an archaeological investigation of the area to establish the boundaries of the cemetery/burial sites using the least disruptive means possible. The least disruptive means shall be determined by the Town through the Town's consultation with the Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission and the Johnston Historical Society. A survey report shall be produced incorporating the findings of the investigation in text and graphic form.
The applicant shall then submit the report and a detailed engineering plan, as required and identified in Subsection H, of the proposed construction project, and all other proposed activities on the property which in any manner might lead to or necessitate any disruption of the cemetery/burial site.
The applicant shall also submit a detailed site alteration plan proposal of the extent and method of removal of human remains and a reburial plan in text and drawing of the new gravesite.
The Town Council may issue a permit to allow the alteration or removal of a historical cemetery or archaeological burial site or family cemetery only after concluding, based on evidence submitted to the Council at a public hearing, that all alternatives to the proposed activity have been examined and that no prudent or feasible alternative to the proposed activity exists or that said alteration only serves the interests, health, welfare, safety of the public and is not solely for commercial expediency.
The following shall be submitted by the applicant to the Town Council prior to the consideration of any application for a permit to remove and/or alter a historical or archaeological cemetery or burial site:
Detailed site plans drawn to scale by a licensed professional registered land surveyor or professional engineer, as applicable, at a minimum scale of one inch equals 50 feet, showing the boundaries of the property in question, topographical contour intervals of no more than one foot, a surveyed boundary of the cemetery and a setback area of no less than 25 feet, and a proposed plan of all improvements proposed on the site which would necessitate disturbance of the cemetery.
If known, a written description of the cemetery, its age and condition, historical importance, whether the cemetery is religious, family, organization, publicly owned or other kind of cemetery, a listing of names and vital dates of those interred as may be determined from grave markers on site, and a cemetery plan indicating position of graves and to the extent possible the identities of those interred.
A detailed site alteration plan, in text and illustration, indicating the extent of disruption of the cemetery, methods of construction or removal of human remains, and reburial plan including the relocation of the graves.
In the event of a family cemetery, a genealogical study to identify whether descendants of the families interred still reside in the State of Rhode Island.
In the event of a religious cemetery, a listing of the religious organization that owns or maintains the cemetery.
Once the required documents are submitted by an applicant, the Town Council shall set the date for a public hearing. Notice of the date, time, and location of the public hearing shall be at the applicant's expense, in a local newspaper, for a period of not less than two weeks prior to the hearing.
The Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission and the Johnston Historical Society shall be notified by registered mail by the applicant not less than two weeks prior to the scheduled hearing, and an advisory opinion shall be requested by the pertinent Town staff.
In the event of archaeological burials and historic Native American Indian graves, the Town shall cause the tribal council of the Narragansett Tribe to be notified by regular mail of the subject, date and time of the scheduled hearing.
In the event an application involves the cemetery of an extant religious society, said society shall be notified by regular mail of the subject, date and time of the scheduled hearing.
In the event the application involves a family cemetery, the interred of which have living lineal descendants, the applicant at his/her expense shall make all reasonable efforts to notify the lineal descendants as to the subject, date and time of the scheduled hearing, which efforts may include sending notice to the descendants via first class mail, or publication of the notice in a newspaper of statewide circulation at least once per week for two successive weeks prior to the scheduled hearing.
At the public hearing the applicant shall prove to the satisfaction of the Town Council that the applicant has examined all possible alternatives and conclusively demonstrated that no prudent and feasible alternative to the proposed alteration is possible; or
At the public hearing the applicant shall prove to the satisfaction of the Town Council the proposed alteration serves the interests of health, welfare, and safety of the public, and is not solely for commercial expediency.
After closing the public hearing the Town Council shall render a decision approving, denying, or approving with reasonable conditions the proposed site alteration plan.
The Council may set other conditions and/or requirements necessary to carry out the purposes of R.I.G.L. § 23-18-1 et seq., including, but not limited to, the following:
In the event of the removal of sites, or portions of sites, or graves to a new location, the applicant must place signs on the original site directing interested parties to the new location of the sites; and
Said signs must be placed along the public way closest to the site of the original cemetery or burial site.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit the routine maintenance and repair of historical gravesites.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit the use of historic cemeteries as places of interment.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to preclude the boards or commissions or agents of the Town from otherwise acting within their authority to regulate and protect historical and archaeological cemeteries.
Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Town Council shall have right to appeal the decision to the Rhode Island Superior Court pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 23-18-11.1.