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Local News

September 14, 2010

Sidney Town Board objects to cemetery

The Sidney Town Board passed a resolution at its August meeting to begin legal proceedings against the Muslim Osmanli Naksibendi Hakkani Sufi Order on Wheat Hill Road in Sidney Center over a cemetery it has established on its land.

According to the minutes of the Aug. 12 meeting, the Sidney board voted unanimously to "an injunction prohibiting the burying of bodies on private property."

Hans Hass, of the Muslim community, said the cemetery is legal and two bodies have been buried in it.

Hass said before there were any burials in the cemetery, local laws and regulations and state laws were researched to ensure that the cemetery would be legal.

Hass notes that the cemetery was established before Supervisor Bob McCarthy and Town Clerk Lisa French were elected. He added that there is nothing in the Sidney zoning regulating cemeteries, but before anything was done he went to the previous clerk and to Dale Downin, code enforcement officer, to see if a permit was required.

McCarthy said Aug. 29 that the Sidney Town Board is contemplating two lawsuits.

McCarthy said the first lawsuit is over a cemetery in Young's Station that was abandoned by a defunct church, causing the land and care of the cemetery to revert to the town. He said the cemetery reportedly contains bodies of Civil War veterans.

"A neighbor apparently has encroached on the (Young's Station cemetery) and refuses to remove his goats, chickens and trapping paraphernalia," McCarthy said. "The town is forced to sue to have the property vacated."

McCarthy said the second lawsuit is against the owner of a property that allowed two Muslim burials on the property, one last November and one recently.

"These burials were done illegally, without notifying local authorities or obtaining proper permits," he said.

"We will be seeking to have these bodies disinterred and stop future burials," he said. "Unauthorized cemeteries have the potential of placing a financial burden on the local government as well as dictating the use of the land for perpetuity.

"It is unfortunate that we have to take these steps to prevent people from gaming the system and climbing on the backs of an already overtaxed local taxpayer, but anything that we have to do to prevent this will include every religion," McCarthy said.

According to the State Department's Division of Cemeteries website there are no state regulations concerning burial on private property. However, the state Sanitary Code does define the distances required between cemeteries and water sources, which vary from district to district.

Hass said according to the Sidney town zoning code, cemeteries are a permitted use in residential-agricultural districts and any new cemetery shall contain a single contiguous area of at least 15 acres, which the Muslim cemetery meets.

Patricia Breakey can be reached at 865-5175 or at patriciabreakey@yahoo.com

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