IW Planning discusses family cemeteries

Published 5:42 pm Friday, September 14, 2018

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On Aug. 28, Isle of Wight County’s Planning Commission continued its discussion of potential revisions to the county’s supplementary use regulations governing family cemeteries and the use of shipping containers as accessory structures on residential properties.

For family burial plots, the proposed revisions to Article V of the county’s zoning ordinance specify a maximum size of 2,000 square feet, a minimum property size of five acres and a limit of one family burial plot per parcel. This eliminates language that previously specified a limit of 15 persons related by blood or marriage for gravesites. A requirement that family burial plots meet applicable requirements of the county’s subdivision ordinance, including ingress/egress requirements, has also been added, as has a requirement that cemeteries, to include family burial plots, meet state setback requirements for residential uses and public drinking water supplies.

For the use of shipping containers on residential properties, a minimum lot size of one acre has been proposed, as has the requirement that shipping container accessory structures to be painted in non-reflective, subtle, neutral or earth tones. High-intensity colors, metallic colors, black or fluorescent colors would be prohibited.

Additional restrictions specify that shipping containers must be located in the rear yard of the principal structure and that no more than one shipping container be located on a single parcel.

The Planning Commission had previously discussed the matter during its June 26 meeting, at which time several commissioners had requested information on any known health effects associated with shipping containers, which Planning and Zoning Administrator Amy Ring later provided. These included a 2015 study titled “Health risks in international container and bulk cargo transport due to volatile toxic compounds,” published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, and “Toxic boxes: a spotlight on dangerous gases in shipping containers,” published on April 12, 2017, in the shipping industry magazine Ship Technology.

Both examined the health risks of fumigants used to preserve the contents of shipping containers during voyages. The “toxic boxes” article also mentioned potential health effects from chemicals emitted from the products being stored in the containers — such as plastic or rubber products, which can give off styrene, benzene or toluene. All three chemicals have been linked to cancer and benzene, according to the American Cancer Society, is a known carcinogen.

In the unincorporated parts of Isle of Wight County, shipping containers are only permitted when used in the active transport of goods, wares or merchandise in support of a lawful principal use of a property, provided that they not be stacked more than three high, and that they comply with development criteria relating to setbacks and landscape buffer yards. They are also permitted when used in conjunction with bona fide agricultural uses, provided that they are not visible from any road or adjacent residential use.

The Commission voted to put the changes to the ordinance concerning family burial plots to a public hearing, but has not set a date for the hearing yet. Ring explained that the Commission hopes to schedule a single public hearing on all changes to the ordinance, to include the sections on shipping containers, once they decide to move forward with the proposed adjustments to that section of the ordinance.