[Approved 5-24-2012 by Ch. No. 2994]
In order to comply with the General Laws of the State of Rhode Island, Title 23, Chapter 18, the City adopts the following regulations governing the preservation of historic and archaeological burial sites in the City.
The City Council finds that historic and archaeological grave sites possess archaeological and scientific value, are often of great artistic, cultural and religious significance, and represent for all cultures a respect for the sanctity of human life. It is, therefore, the policy of the City that marked or unmarked historic cemeteries are to be preserved and are not to be altered or removed except as provided in this section. Nothing in this section shall be construed to violate any provision of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- A substantial or significant change to an archaeological burial site, historic or family cemetery.
- The owner of the land on which an archaeological burial site or family cemetery is located for which a permit must be sought for alteration or removal.
- ARCHAEOLOGICAL BURIAL SITE
- An area of land that has been used for interment of human remains in precontact or the distant past. Archaeological burial sites may include Native American or other ethnic groupings.
- FAMILY CEMETERY
- An historic cemetery that is not associated with a specific religious organization but that is the site of burial for persons related by blood, marriage or household.
- HISTORIC CEMETERY
- Any tract of land that was used more than 100 years ago as a burial place, whether or not marked with an historic marker or gravestone, including, but not limited to, ancient burial places known or suspected to contain the remains of one or more Native Americans. For the purpose of this article, "historic cemetery" shall also include an area 25 feet in width around the perimeter of the cemetery.
- HUMAN REMAINS
- Any parts or remains of deceased persons, including skeletal remains or cremated ashes.
- Any site where human remains have been purposefully interred. The term shall also include grave markers, funerary objects and associated cultural remains and artifacts. A grave shall include mausoleums, crypts or other structures designed to house human remains.
- LEAST DISRUPTIVE
- A means of construction, excavation, removal or any other activity that, in the opinion of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC), has the least overall destructive impact on the grave, human remains or cemetery.
- The owner of a parcel of land.
- RELIGIOUS CEMETERY
- Any cemetery owned or maintained by a religious organization.
- RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION
- The organization representing the adherents of any religious society.
- SITE ALTERATION PLAN
- A document setting forth the proposed alteration of an historical cemetery, archaeological burial site or family cemetery, including detailed specifications for alterations, removal and reinterment of human remains.
It shall be unlawful for any person to disturb, excavate, deposit fill in or on, remove or destroy grave markers, burial objects or buried remains, or conduct any other activities that would damage or diminish the integrity of any historic cemetery or archaeological burial site or family cemetery without first obtaining a permit from the City Council to alter or remove said cemetery.
The City Council may issue a permit to allow the alteration or removal or historic cemeteries, archaeological cemeteries or family cemeteries only after concluding, based on evidence submitted to the Council at a public hearing, that all alternatives to the proposed activity have been examined and that no prudent and feasible alternative to the proposed activity exists or that said alteration only serves the interests, health, welfare, and safety of the public and is not for commercial expediency. In order for the City Council to clearly assess the proposed project, the following information shall be submitted unless otherwise required by the City Council:
Detailed site plans drawn to scale and stamped by a registered land surveyor at a minimum scale of one inch equals 40 feet, showing the boundaries of the property in question, topographical contour intervals of no more than one foot, a surveyed boundary of the cemetery and a setback area of no less than 25 feet, and a proposed plan of all improvements proposed on the site that necessitates disturbance of the cemetery.
If known, a written description of the cemetery, its age and condition, and historical importance; whether the cemetery is religious, family, organization, publicly owned or other kind of cemetery; a listing of names and vital dates of those interred as may be determined from grave markers on site, and a cemetery plan indicating position of graves, and to the extent possible, the identities of those interred.
A detailed site alteration plan indicating the extent of disruption of the cemetery, methods of construction or removal of human remains, reburial plan, including in text and drawing the relocation of graves.
In the event of a family cemetery, a genealogical study to identify whether descendants of the families of the interred still reside in Rhode Island.
In the event of a religious cemetery, a listing of the religious organization that owns or maintains the cemetery;
Permittees should follow the provisions of NAGPRA;
Any further information and study the City Council deems necessary to complete its consideration to the request to alter a cemetery in compliance with R.I.G.L. 23-18;
As to previously unknown or archaeological cemeteries and burial sites, once a discovery of a previously unknown burial site is made or suspected, the owner or contractor shall immediately notify the Building Inspector, who shall in turn contact the State Medical Examiner and State Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) pursuant to R.I.G.L. 23-18. The City shall require the cessation of construction activities, pending preliminary verification by the State Medical Examiner or RIHPHC. If the site is verified as a human burial site, work within 25 feet of the site shall be halted unless or until a permit to alter or move is issued by the City Council pursuant to these regulations.
The owner shall be required at his or her expense to have an archaeological investigation of the area conducted by an archaeologist approved by the RIHPHC to establish the boundaries of the cemetery/burial sites via the least disruptive means feasible. The least disruptive means shall be determined in consultation with the RIHPHC. A survey report shall be produced incorporating the findings of the investigation in text and graphic form.
The applicant shall then submit the report and a detailed survey plan as in Subsection B(1) of this section of the proposed construction project and all other activities on the property in question that in the opinion of the applicant necessitates disruption of the cemetery/burial sites.
The applicant shall also submit a detailed site alteration plan proposal of the extent and method of removal of human remains and a reburial plan in text and drawing of the new grave site.
Upon receipt of the required documents, the City Council shall set the date of hearing and cause the matter to be publicly advertised at the applicant's expense in a local newspaper not less than two weeks prior to the hearing. The RIHPHC and Tribal Historical Preservation Officer shall simultaneously be notified and an advisory opinion shall be requested of the City Planning Department.
Notice to interested parties.
In the event of archaeological burials and historic Native American graves, the City shall cause the pertinent tribe to be notified by regular mail of the subject, date and time of the public hearing, such notice to be deposited in the mail not less than two weeks prior to the hearing date.
In the event an application involves the cemetery of an extant religious society, said society shall be notified by regular mail of the subject, date and time of the public hearing, such notice to be deposited in the mail not less than two weeks prior to the hearing date.
In the event the application involves a family cemetery, the interred of which have living lineal descendants, the applicant, at his or her expense, shall make all reasonable efforts to notify lineal descendants, including sending notice to descendants via certified mail or publication of the notice in a daily newspaper of statewide circulation at least once per week for three successive weeks prior to the hearing.
Burden of proof. At the hearing, the applicant shall prove to the satisfaction of the City Council that:
The City Council shall conduct a public hearing on the proposed project and shall render a decision approving, denying or approving with reasonable conditions, the proposed site alteration plan, and may set other requirements of the applicant deemed sufficient to carry out the purpose of R.I.G.L. 23-18 et seq.
Appeal. Any person aggrieved by the decision of the City Council shall have a right to appeal the decision to the Superior Court pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 23-18-11.1.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the routine maintenance and repair of historical grave sites or the use of historic cemeteries as places of interment, nor shall it be construed to preclude the boards or commissions or agents of the City from otherwise acting with their authority to regulate and protect historical and archaeological cemeteries.
Any person found to have violated this section shall be subject to a fine of not more than $250.