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Blackhoof green cemetery lingers as hot topic

Blackhoof Township residents have collected nearly 100 local signatures on a petition opposing a new “green” cemetery advertising its services on land in the township.

Residents again attended Tuesday’s county board meeting, this time to object to the approximately 20-acre cemetery, Loving Earth Memorial Gardens, being established adjacent to eight relatively new homes.

The cemetery caters to clientele wishing to be buried naturally without embalming or cremation.

Matt Connell originally bought the land but does not live here.

The issue has put Carlton County commissioners in a difficult situation, unable to cite any ordinances against Connell’s cemetery.

Board chair Gary Peterson noted both the county attorney and a private attorney had been consulted. The board was advised that they had no power to call for a moratorium on the establishment of the new cemetery. The cemetery falls under the correct land use zoning for Carlton County, and the county board could not deny the new venture even if it wanted to.

Attorney Robb Barnes spoke Tuesday as a representative of Loving Earth Memorial Gardens. He stated the following:

• Cemeteries are permitted at the proposed site under the current zoning plan of Carlton County.

• The owner of the cemetery will follow all laws and regulations required by Carlton County and the state of Minnesota.

• Loving Earth’s owners and supporters are environmentalists.

Yet, commissioners and residents expressed numerous concerns regarding the cemetery.

Homeowner Eric Braun said he read online that the cemetery plan calls for 500 burials per acre which could amount to 10,000 burials for the new proposed cemetery. Commissioner Mark Thell thought the owner of the new cemetery may have eminent domain authority for expansion if the cemetery became a reality.

Members of the group opposing the cemetery say they have offered to buy the property for the original purchase price of $80,000.

Five neighboring homeowners each spoke, making the following points:

• Connell was not present for either of the last two board meetings.

• Matt Arnold stated he believed Connell had tried to establish a green cemetery in Wisconsin, and then in Winona, Minnesota, but was unsuccessful.

• Alicia Arnold said the site does not conform to guidelines outlined on the company’s own guidelines.

“I built my home to make my family’s life better,” said homeowner Bruce Soukkala. “Me and my neighbors never dreamed our neighborhood would have a cemetery operation next door. I am a local boy and I think all of the citizens of Carlton County are my neighbors. Why does it come to this where the county is against my neighborhood on this issue?”