City cemetery’s columbaria plan moving forward; next step MDAH approval

Published 9:20 pm Sunday, May 14, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The city’s preservation commission approved almost all of a plan presented by the Natchez City Cemetery Association to create columbaria for the internment of cremated remains.

The only part of the plan that was tabled was the design of the benches for the project, which has yet to be decided.

Because of the city’s landmark status, the plan needs final approval from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Conner Burns, executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation, has agreed to walk the cemetery association through that process.

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Annette Holder, of the cemetery association’s committee working on the Columbaria project, presented the project to the preservation commission. She said the cemetery’s board is “sitting on go.”

In the initial phase, plans call for constructing one six-foot-tall, curved columbarium composed of granite, which would include 288 niches and an octagonal, silo-like columbarium consisting of 72 niches. Future phases would add two curved columbaria with 190 niches each and 20 in-ground niches.

The location of the columbaria will be in the new bluff addition of the cemetery, which opened just before COVID.

Terry Stutzman, president of the cemetery’s governing board, said several steps remain before actual construction begins, but the committee hopes to start construction this summer.

“We have a number of things we have to work out before we can do anything like sell them, but anyone interested can contact me or Annette Holder, and we will put your name on a list and keep you apprised as we move forward. We have no idea what the costs will be or anything like that. There would be no binding commitment, of course, but we can work to keep you in the loop,” Stutzman said.

Also, at its meeting on Wednesday, the preservation commission approved the plans of Michael and Kimberly Burkley to construct a house at 14 Ravenna Lane. The request had been tabled at the commission’s last meeting because details, like construction materials and some measurements, were not included in the Burkleys’ application.

The site of the home had been a point of contention among neighbors in the South Union Street area. It is being built on property that once belonged to the historic home Ravenna and now the owners of three existing houses. Eventually, the Burkley will need to use a gravel road that runs through the current owner of Ravenna’s property to reach them.

The issue has been festering since 1967. However, attorneys representing some owners on South Union Street, Ravenna, and the Burkleys reported they are close to inking an agreement at the Wednesday meeting.

The preservation commission members noted that is no concern of theirs. Their decision was based solely on plans for the Burkley’s new house.