Brooke Johns, 92, wants to be buried on his estate in Olney when he dies.
But it's unclear whether the former vaudeville banjo player can get his wish under current Montgomery County zoning regulations. So council member Neal Potter introduced a zoning amendment yesterday that would allow residents to be buried on their family property.
Council members scheduled the proposal for a public hearing July 29, but not without an hour of serious -- and not so serious -- discussion.
"How do we know that a family won't die of some contagious disease like Legionnaires' disease?" asked County Council member Esther P. Gelman. "And what if the land is later sold and someone builds a garage or home on the site?"
Council member Rose Crenca wondered how the county would determine whether those buried in family plots were family members. "Who's going to monitor it?" asked Crenca. "I have no idea how you could do this."
Crenca also was concerned about the size of the sites. "There are fewer large tracts of residential land in the county now," she said. "Even if you had a three- or four-acre lot in Olney, I don't know if you would want to bury Grandma there."
The proposal would allow family burial sites of at least one acre for dead persons "related to the property owner by blood, marriage or adoption."
Current zoning law is silent on the subject of family plots, and there are some old family graves in the rural parts of the county and in some churchyards. But a lawyer contacted by Johns about his burial preferences was uncertain whether they could be followed, and the lawyer contacted Potter. Potter thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to put family plots into the same status as cemeteries, which must be approved by the county before their construction.
Potter predicted that if his legislation is approved, no more than six sites will be requested over a 10-year period.
That did not appease Crenca.
"A lot of people in Montgomery County move," Crenca said. "It's very expensive to move graves. I just don't think that this is something whose time has come."
Johns feels differently. "It's marvelous here and I want to be buried on my own ground," he said from his home.