Members of Saint Ann Catholic Church have received approval from the Town of Smithfield to construct a columbaria. A columbaria is a structure that holds funeral urns and cremated remains of the deceased.
At the June meeting of the town board, council members voted to approve a 4,000 niche columbaria on the church property located at 4057 Highway 70 Business West, and just inside Smithfield’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). In March the council approved 6-to-1 a change to their Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to allow a columbaria up to seven feet in height and more than 200 niches (urn places).
The special use permit approved at the June meeting allows Saint Ann Catholic Church to construct two columbaria. The first will accommodate 1,460 niches and will be located behind the church. The second will be visible from US 70 and accommodate 2,540 niches.
Dean Penny, chairperson of the Saint Ann building committee, told the council the church has over 7,000 members but no on-site burial options. The columbaria will be self-contained and environmentally friendly, he said.
The diocese currently charges $4,000 a niche and requires 15 percent of the sales price be placed in an endowment for future maintenance. Saint Ann Catholic will have an endowment for perpetual care of $2.4 million when the columbaria is built out. The church will be required to submit an annual report to the Town to ensure endowment funds are being properly set aside.
Council members expressed some concern about the number of niches, saying when the application was first heard in March they thought the columbaria would be up to 2,000, not 4,000 niches. Mr. Penny assured the board the columbaria are made of stone that will compliment the church and commemorative plaques will conform to standards.
The council approved the Special Use Permit in a 4-0 vote.