Chapel Hill has one less advisory board after members of the Cemeteries Advisory Board voted to stop meeting last month — and members of the Chapel Hill Town Council aren’t happy about it.
The Cemeteries Advisory Board made a unanimous decision to end its quarterly meetings during its meeting Sept. 18.
The town’s comprehensive planning process Chapel Hill 2020 required Chapel Hill staff members to evaluate the town’s 19 advisory boards to determine places where they might be able to streamline the town’s planning process.
During this review, the cemetary advisory board was moved to the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Board, said Steve Moore, former chairman of the board in an email to the Town Council .
“For the record, less than 20 percent of the time spent by the current board involved issues of management of the town’s cemeteries,” Moore said in the email.
“Despite repeated requests and the presence of a town liaison and council liaison to the board, we have been unable to get any clarification of this dramatic mandate and diminished directive.”
500 unknown burials
As a standing commission of the town, the board is responsible for the upkeep of town cemeteries and providing direct input to the council on policies for the operation and maintenance of cemeteries in the town.
While it was active, the board facilitated the discovery of more than 500 unknown burials at different cemeteries in the town, Moore said in his email.
The board also developed an accurate GPS map of all unmarked and marked burials at Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, the report said.
Mary Hayes, a former member of the board, said she felt the town was not addressing the issues the board faced.
“They might put it in Parks and Rec, but what do you think they will support more — soccer fields or a cemetery?” Hayes said. “Who can vote? Not dead people.”
Hayes said she continues to doubt the board’s relevance in future town matters.
“I absolutely feel that we were not being acknowledged,” Hayes said. “The Town Council could care less.”
A different plan
Town Council member Donna Bell said she has different ideas for the future of the board.
“Just because they stopped meetings does not mean we as a council won’t use the cemetery board,” Bell said.
“If they don’t want to serve in that capacity any longer, we would ask other citizens to do so.”
Residents will soon be able to apply to be on a new cemetary advisory board, said Lee Storrow, the council’s liaison for the former board.
Storrow did not have voting authority on the board.
“We’re currently discussing realigning our advisory board and restructuring,” Storrow said.
Storrow was concerned eliminating the Cemeteries Advisory Board would hinder residents’ involvement in the town.
“Some citizens think this would be good,” he said. “Folks want to make sure we provide as many opportunities for others to participate in political activity in the town.”
Storrow said before the town opens up the application process for the new board, discussion among the former board members has to come to an end.
“We are discussing how we might choose to realign our boards and commissions,” Storrow said. “I think we need to finish the process of discussion first.”
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