Community pushes back against proposed Mennonite cemetery in Moorefield

MOOREFIELD – The proposal for a controversial Mennonite cemetery will return to council Tuesday night following community concerns related to groundwater protection and land use compatibility.

Subject to its second public meeting at Mapleton council, the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference, an old order Mennonite sect, has amended its application asking council to permit a new cemetery at 109 Ruth Anne Pl. just off Wellington Road 10, after the previous proposal provoked multiple delegations during a public meeting in March.

The updated plan reduces the number of cemetery plots from 472 to 210 and includes plans for a dense coniferous buffer, likely cedar trees, around the cemetery to provide a visual screening from neighbouring properties but residents of a subdivision next door maintain the entire project is unwanted.

“I am quite sure (the Mennonites) would be fine with this type of construction on or near their homes,” said one registered delegate David Head, in a recent letter to council. “They seem to think it’s okay to place this near our homes and we agree we don't want their cemetery near ours.”

When the property was re-zoned in 2011 to permit the church, the application also asked to build a cemetery however council expressed concerns and ultimately only approved the rezoning for the church.

“We were assured when we had bought the property that there would not be a cemetery on the church property which did play into our decision to purchase,” said another delegate Ross Deal, in a recent email to council. “Changing the zoning now takes away our ability to choose if we are comfortable with having a cemetery across the street from us.”

Previously attending the March public meeting, Deal said reducing the number of plots to 210 has no effect on the concerns mentioned and that many residents of the subdivision remain opposed to the zoning change in his letter.

“Further, to change the zoning now could potentially have a negative effect on the value of our property when or if we decide to sell," said Deal.

A geotechnical investigation report of soil and groundwater at the proposed cemetery from CMT Engineering Inc. from October 2022 found the conditions encountered were suitable for the proposed use.

According to the report, while the Funeral, Burial, and Cremation Services Act does not specify the depth of soil cover or the burial height above the groundwater table, it is understood that the minimum soil cover for burial is typically 0.6 metres, and it's anticipated that a burial depth of 1.5 metres will be utilized at this site.

The act also doesn’t specify the distance that cemeteries must be located from water sources but using relevant provincial regulations, a minimum of 15 metres from a drilled well and 30 metres from a hand dug well and similar clearances are recommended.

The application also included a letter from Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health stating the area is suitable for use as a cemetery as long as drinking water conditions are prioritized.

“It is imperative that adequate clearance distances are maintained from any drinking water sources that may be located on the property,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health and CEO of Wellington-Guelph-Dufferin Public Health in the letter. “This precaution is crucial to safeguard the quality and safety of the water supply and to prevent any potential contamination risks.”

Previous community delegations from March detailed concerns about loss of property value, environmental repercussions, and the neighbourhood’s ambience.

“My family purchased our property in 2017 from a developer,” said the DeKoning family in their letter. “At the time of purchase, we were informed of the church being part of the community subdivision, but were not informed that our next-door neighbour would be wanting to put in a cemetery.”

The public meeting will take place Tuesday, September 12 at 7:00 p.m. in the Mapleton council chambers. The full report can be found here.

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,