Planning Board votes to amend regulations to better protect cemeteries

Planning Board votes to amend regulations to better protect cemeteries

Volunteers Houghton, Postle applaud decision

LINCOLN – The Lincoln Planning Board voted to amend subdivision regulations to better protect historical cemeteries in the town, and Pawtucket resident Ken Postle, who has recovered gravestones and the Lampercock cemetery in Lincoln, called the decision a win for the town.

Postle and John Houghton of Lincoln, vice president of the Blackstone Valley Historical Society, have been pushing the importance of the maintenance and preservation of these gravesites. The two have spoken to Lincoln Town Council members, the Lincoln Conservation Commission and other officials about their ideas to protect the historical properties for years to come, and saw those efforts rewarded at last week’s Planning Board meeting on Wednesday night.

Though construction, excavation, or other disturbing activity is already prohibited within 25 feet of a recorded historical cemetery, excess design standards will be formally added to Lincoln’s regulations.

The approved amendment reads that if boundaries of a cemetery are unknown, the Planning Board “shall require that the applicant, at its own expense, conduct an archaeological investigation to determine the actual size of the cemetery prior to preliminary plan consideration by the Planning Board.”

It also reads that if boundary lines are doubtful, the board may require an investigation at the applicant’s expense.

At last week’s Planning Board meeting, Town Planner Albert Ranaldi explained that while Lincoln follows Rhode Island law, directly adding these design standards into the town’s regulations could provide a more transparent regulation.

“There’s a number of conditions and rules we follow when we examine a subdivision that’s in front of us to make sure that they (developers) are properly addressing any type of historical cemeteries,” Ranaldi added.

Town Engineer Leslie Quish stated that she would work with Ranaldi to develop a protocol for the town to follow, a move Postle applauded.

“It’s much better than it was,” Postle said after reading the amendments after the meeting.

“The clearer we make this, the better,” he said, explaining that the area of all the historical cemeteries combined is Lincoln’s “biggest open space” property.

“You sit on one of the best examples of a Quaker area that there is in the state,” Postle told Planning Board members and Ranaldi at the meeting, explaining that Quakers were buried with fieldstones, not marked headstones.

As mentioned previously in The Breeze, Lincoln has 82 known cemeteries that are mapped, and Postle has been on a mission to find the remaining missing lots. In his findings so far, Postle said most people in town have been supportive of his work, coming out of their houses to chat with him about the historical cemeteries located in their yards.

“I’m very encouraged by the fact that it seems like the majority of people that we talk to are very much in favor of protecting the cemeteries,” he told The Breeze.

Postle spoke of individuals buried in the historical gravesites, asking how those who no longer have a voice “balance against future development.”

“I think Lincoln made the right call here,” he said after the meeting.

Still, he urged Lincoln residents to take care of historical cemeteries on their property. Postle pointed to a cemetery site off Angell Road, where he said pipes and trash had been placed right up to the wall of the grave site.

Postle warned those at the Planning Board meeting that without a proper archaeological look, “you can just go plow right through them (cemeteries). It’s just a shame that so much of history is being lost to development.”

He said “it does happen, and it could happen in the future if we don’t pay attention.”