TAMPA — Carrollwood Village residents who rallied against a proposed cemetery in their neighborhood emerged victorious Tuesday.
Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously to deny a rezoning request for the 3-acre cemetery at St. Paul Catholic Church, saying it would be inappropriate in a residential area.
County staff and a land-use hearing officer had recommended approval of the rezoning. Opponents included the 3,000-member Carrollwood Village Homeowners Association and 300 residents who signed petitions forwarded to commissioners.
Residents cheered the 7-0 vote denying the necessary rezoning.
“We worked really hard; a lot of Saturdays,” said Kelly Overfield, attorney for the homeowner association and one of three individuals representing opponents before the commission.
A cemetery behind the church on the northwest corner of Dale Mabry Highway at Stall Road would not preserve the character of the neighborhood, would bring additional traffic to the narrow residential streets and reduce property values, opponents said.
“Why should these folks bear the economical and, actually, emotional burden of having cemetery next to your home?” said Scott Katz, one of two residents to address commissioners. The proposal would leave some homeowners with master-bedroom views of graves, and others facing the cemetery’s Stall Road entry.
After each side presented its arguments, Commissioner Victor Crist questioned how many graves were anticipated.
Joseph DiVito, attorney for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, said the initial phase called for 200 graves, with the cemetery eventually holding 500 to 1,000. A cemetery would not create additional traffic, as 80 funerals are already held annually at the church, he said.
Saying “I have a lot of knowledge in this area,” Crist expressed concerns about small cemeteries lacking financial safeguards to ensure perpetual care. “A small cemetery without adequate care and maintenance eventually with time could become either a health hazard or a liability for the community to have to endure,” he said.
As a state legislator Crist spent six years researching cemetery operations. The St. Petersburg diocese has never had problems with lack of maintenance, he said, but the one in Miami has.
“ I cannot imagine a more inappropriate use on this property than a cemetery,” Commission Chairman Ken Hagan said before passing the gavel and making the motion to deny the rezoning. The Greater Carollwood/Northdale Community Plan never envisioned a cemetery on the 19-acre property where the church was built in 1969, he said.
After the meeting, DiVito said church leaders will decide their course of action, adding that any appeal must be filed within 30 days. The zoning request met the measures of the law, it’s just that residents don’t want a cemetery, DiVito said. “I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to combat their feelings.”
Under existing residential zoning, the church can create a cremation garden, just not graves.
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