Many cemetery corporations in New York State are faced with the dilemma of running out of available burial space. As a result, cemetery corporations may consider expanding the size of the cemetery by purchasing adjacent lands which when developed will allow the corporation to provide grave sales to the neighboring communities for many more years. Furthermore, additional grave sales will help increase the corporation’s endowment so that when there are no further graves available for sale, the income generated from the endowment will hopefully be of a sufficient amount to pay for the continued maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery.
Cemetery corporations considering to expand and purchase additional land must comply with the provisions of Section 1506 of the New York State Not-For-Profit Law. Section 1506 sets forth the procedure and approvals which the corporation must follow and obtain in order to purchase land for cemetery purposes. The approvals required under Section 1506 for cemeteries in Nassau and Suffolk Counties include:
1. Approval from the State Cemetery Board. The Board requires that the purchase price be supported by 2 appraisals.
2. A Court order from the Supreme Court in which the land is situated.
3. The consent of the local authority in which the property is situated. Depending on the jurisdiction where the property is located, approval from either the local legislative body, board of trustees or the town board is required.
4. Approval from the County legislature in which the land is situated.
In addition to the approvals required by Section 1506, the local zoning code may require approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals or other local board. For example, if the cemetery is operating pursuant to a special use permit, an amendment to the special use permit will likely be required. As with other land use applications, a public hearing may be required which will allow the neighboring property owners an opportunity to voice their concerns and objections to the purchase. A master plan of the cemetery encompassing the proposed development of the land to be acquired will likely be required and the governing board will closely consider the impacts on the neighboring properties and on the community as a whole.
Cemetery corporations looking to expand face significant and time consuming procedural hurdles. In entering into a contract to purchase additional land, the corporation will need to ensure that the contract, and the obligations of the corporation, are made contingent upon the approvals being obtained and allow the corporation sufficient time in which to obtain the needed approvals.