Nevada City Planning Commission approves transfer of historic cemetery’s ownership
March 21, 2013
A split Nevada City planning commission declared Thursday that a proposed transfer of ownership and maintenance of the town's oldest historic cemetery to a Nevada County agency aligns with the town's long-term guiding policies.
The 3-2 decision effectively moves the matter on to the town's city council, which City Attorney Hal DeGraw predicted will likely discuss the topic at a mid-April meeting.
The proposal in question calls for the Nevada Cemetery District to take over Pioneer Cemetery at a cost to the city of $2,000 a year for two decades. Located on West Broad Street, Pioneer Cemetery is the city's oldest burial ground, but the city has not been able to maintain it, said Dennis Cassella, who chairs the cemetery district's board of trustees.
"I do think it is Nevada City's responsibility to our pioneers to own and maintain the cemetery," said resident Laurie Oberholtzer.
“(I)t seems that the transfer would be consistent with the general plan within that restricted definition.”
— Brad Croul, Nevada City Planning Commission
The cemetery district includes as many as 400 graves on close to two acres that date back to the 1850s, including those of Aaron A. Sargent, William Alphonse Sutter (son of the famous General Sutter of Sutter's Mill) and Henry Meredith, according to a February report prepared by DeGraw.
The district's intent at Pioneer Cemetery is to manage its landscape, meet legal mandates to enclose the property in fencing and install receptive areas for qualifying cremations.
"It is our belief that the cemetery is full," Cassella said. "What we proposed is there may be people in Nevada City that have ancestral relations who want to be buried … We are not proposing to do any digging because, again, we believe it is full."
But Cassella said that people with historical relation or significance could be interred there in either a columbarium or a scatter garden.
"There is no (current) source of revenue for that cemetery," Cassella said.
However, the district's plans, if handed the property, were not a matter for the planning commission to consider — its members were tasked Thursday with deciding if transferring the property to the district is consistent with the city's general plan, which outlines the property for public use.
Founded in 1943, the Nevada Cemetery District is a public agency that owns, maintains and preserves historic cemeteries in the western part of the county for the public.
It operates 27 public cemeteries in western Nevada County.
The organization is funded by a combination of property taxes, sales of interment rights and service charges and fees and is governed by a five-member board appointed by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
Under the district's control, Pioneer Cemetery would remain open to the public, DeGraw noted.
"To me, it seems that the transfer would be consistent with the general plan within that restricted definition," said Commissioner Brad Croul.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.