Arlington Memorial Park and Cemetery in Sandy Springs wants to get a conditional-use permit to change its previously approved plans to build seven new mausoleums and instead build one, with the intention to construct four more in the future.

But the cemetery’s location for the new mausoleum is directly in the line of sight of a neighborhood bordering the property, one resident said, adding Arlington’s existing and planned tree buffers for that area are inadequate.

Burnett, Chris rgb

Chris Burnett

“While in general we are in support of the applicant’s plans to modify their zoning conditions and appreciate the additional condition recommended by the planning commission, we do not believe it goes far enough to protect the neighborhood,” said David Manne, who lives on Long Island Drive next to the cemetery’s northern border and was speaking on behalf of his family and seven property owners there.

Manne was the only individual who spoke in opposition to Arlington’s plan at the Sandy Springs City Council’s Oct. 20 meeting at City Springs, where the council approved it 6-0. It was the council’s first in-person meeting since June 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the first one as part of a strategy to host the first meeting of the month online and the second in person.

Manne said Arlington is supposed to have a 25-foot vegetation buffer around the entire property where it backs up to other homes. But in a city document, he added, its map and photos of tree buffers near his home are misleading because one tree buffer is actually on the neighborhood’s property and the proposed buffer would be inside a sanitary sewer easement that does not allow plants.

“We believe that they should be responsible for planting the tree buffer on their property in an area that will give us a line-of-sight buffer between our neighborhood and their business,” Manne said.

The cemetery also plans to move its maintenance building to a location that is also in the line of sight of the neighbors on the property’s north end.

Carl Westmoreland is a lawyer representing Executive Equities Inc., the Huntington Beach, California-based company that owns the 122-acre Arlington, which opened in 1922. He was one of three individuals who spoke in favor of the plan, including Ronda Smith, president of the Mountaire Springs neighborhood.

“This process started last fall when you zoned it to not allow cemeteries,” Westmoreland said of the city’s 2019 passage to amend the zoning code that accidentally left Arlington out of the conservation zoning district and put it in the residential detached district, adding he’s been transparent with neighbors about the plan. “We’ve been held up a bit by the pause in public hearings (due to the pandemic).

“(The plan) eliminates seven mausoleums approved by you in 2012. It will allow Arlington to start on a new mausoleum building. It won’t change the size of the property. … The height of the proposed new mausoleums was reduced from 35 feet to 25 feet. … This is a plan that’s more than fair for the neighborhood.”

Before the council voted on the issue, District 3 Councilman Chris Burnett, whose district includes the cemetery, asked if he could amend his motion to approve so the period trees must be planted before construction on a new mausoleum begins could be 18 months instead of the mandated 12.

But no one seconded his amendment, so the vote reverted back to the original issue.

Westmoreland said Arlington’s most recently constructed mausoleum was built in 2012 and the next one likely won’t be completed until 2021, so the two planned after that could come 13 more years apart.

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