Backyard Burial Ground?

One of the great aspects about the practice of law is that there are always new and unique issues and questions that people need assistance solving. One such question was posed when a client asked if there was any prohibition in Connecticut to having a private burial ground or cemetery on residentially zoned property. More simply, can a person be buried in the yard of their own home?

It may be a surprise to some, but a private cemetery on residentially zoned property is not precluded by state law or as a matter of public policy. However, that does not mean it is something that people can automatically do without municipal oversight or permission.

Ultimately, there are several hurdles a person must overcome in order to be interred on residentially zoned property. First, a cemetery on residentially zoned property must be a land use permitted under the zoning regulations of the specific municipality where the land is located. See Piquet v. Town of Chester, 124 Conn. App. 518 (2010). Second, the person must obtain permission from the Department of Public Health to create such a private burial ground. See Conn. Gen. Stat. §19a-313.

Assuming the person is able to obtain zoning approval and permission from the Department of Public Health, there are statutory requirements that must be followed, even on private burial grounds, when interring a body. Such specific requirements include how far the burial plot must be from residences on the property and whether it is permissible for the body to be interred above ground in a crypt or mausoleum.

Finally, even though the concept of a private burial ground is legally permissible, there are practical considerations that must also be taken into account. For example, suppose the person on whose residential property the private burial ground exists either dies or decides to sell the property. It is likely that until the interred body is removed, the land will be essentially unmarketable to subsequent purchasers, and even then a potential lingering stigma could cause future problems for selling the parcel. Not to mention the significant cost associated with having the body exhumed and transferred.

All of these above factors and considerations reflect that the decision to create a private burial ground on residentially zoned property is not one that should be made without legal guidance and consult throughout the entire process.