It will be a little easier for former residents to have their final resting place in Agassiz.
During the Kent council meeting Monday (Jan. 25), council voted to approve several changes to the cemeteries bylaw, which hasn’t been touched since 2007.
Several changes were clerical — removing the fees for burial from the cemetery bylaw to the fees and charges bylaw, as one example — but two will have direct impact on those wanting to be buried in Agassiz’s Valley View Cemetery.
One is that Kent will not be allowing green burials at the hilltop cemetery.
Green burials have been gaining popularity as a potentially more eco-friendly alternative to traditional burials, which often use toxic embalming fluids and non-biodegradable grave liners. Instead, a green burial sees the body placed in a biodegradable shroud or casket, or directly into the earth.
The District of Kent had been approached by one family who wanted a green burial, but “you have to have a certain part of your cemetery that is laid out for that, and you have to have special permits,” deputy director of financial services Cheryl Bourel explained.
Council voted to not allow green burials in Agassiz, in large part because those kinds of burials are available in Chilliwack. Kent also only allows concrete grave liners to be used in Valley View Cemetery, although it is looking at other options.
The other change Kent council voted to include was a new rate for former residents wanting to be buried at Valley View Cemetery.
Before the bylaw change, Kent had two rates for an adult plot: $1,350 for a resident and $2,025 for a non-resident. However, because Kent’s fees were so much lower than other jurisdictions, people from out of town were purchasing plots at Valley View Cemetery.
“Part of the challenge that we face at this time is because our fees are so low, we have a significant amount of people that are coming up from the city and purchasing plots here,” Bourel said. “It’s unfortunate that that’s the reality.”
A Lees and Associates study from 2016 showed that Valley View Cemetery could expect to sell all its existing casket lots by 2054, and its existing cremation lots by 2021 if the district didn’t make changes to in-fill parts of the cemetery and convert some plots to cremation spaces. The District of Kent is working on plans for a columbarium — a building or structure to house multiple urns — but will be going back to Lees and Associates for more input before bringing that report to council.
In addition, Bourel and others shared concerns that many Agassiz residents need to leave the community to receive more resources, particularly as they get older — meaning that people who may have lived in Agassiz for many years would pay the non-resident rate.
“We’re looking at catering to our own residents, and not folks from other jurisdictions,” Counc. Stan Watchorn said.
Now, the bylaw has been updated to include rates for former residents as well as non-residents. The new rate for adult plots will be $1,461 for a resident, $2,922 for a former resident and $5,844 for a non-resident.
These rates are more in line with what neighbouring jurisdictions are asking — cheaper than Abbotsford and Mission, but more expensive than Hope, according to a report from staff.
Former residents wanting to purchase a plot in Valley View Cemetery have to provide proof that they had lived in Kent at one time.
Increases in fees will go towards cemetery upkeep and upgrades.