Monday, June 13, 2011

Human remains can be interred on private property

Q: What rights does a person have after death? If you have a 500-acre farm, can you be buried there without the assistance of a funeral home? If a doctor signs a death certificate, is there any law prohibiting that?

-- Johnny Angell, Franklin County

A: The law in Virginia does allow for burial on private property. Virginia law requires the landowner's permission before disposing of a body on private property, though. That just seems like common courtesy to me. Violating this requirement -- or disposing of a body on public property -- is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Lisa Hahn, executive director of the Virginia Department of Health Professions and the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers, advised a few extra measures in planning a private-property burial.

"I would suggest that they first check with the local county zoning requirements, the health department or your local government administrator," Hahn said. "Some counties have requirements that restrict burials within 150 feet from the road" and require that graves be at least 2 feet deep.

In Roanoke County, for example, zoning regulations require that any other landowners within 250 feet (unless separated by a street) must also give written consent. Private cemeteries must also be at least 300 feet removed from any public property containing a well that is used for public water supply. The location also must be documented sufficiently so that any future owners of the property can be accurately informed of the location of any cemeteries.

Department of Health regulations require death certificates to indicate plans for the cremation or burial of a body, as well as a doctor's signature.

Q: Having lived in the Glenvar area of western Roanoke County most my life, I've been watching workmen dissemble the big old red barn, a local landmark on U.S. 11/U.S. 460, by the turn to Wabun. Is it being rebuilt somewhere else?

-- Shirl Chittum, Glenvar

A: The disassembly of the red barn is not related to the ongoing widening of Main Street, according to Jason Bond, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The property is privately owned and is zoned for agricultural use, said Arnold Covey, director of Roanoke County's Department of Community Development. The landowner was not required to obtain a permit before taking down the building.

Covey said one of his building officials has attempted to reach the landowner to find out what the plans are for the old barn but has been unable to make contact.

If anyone knows the next chapter in the life of this old barn, please let us know.

Got a question? Got an answer? Call Bridget Bradburn at 777-6476 or send an email to whatsonyourmind @roanoke.com. Don't forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.

Look for Bridget Bradburn's column on Mondays.

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