© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Dale McKeigan, manager of provincial planning, walks through the People's Cemetery in Sherwood Monday.
When it comes to the size of some Island cemeteries, they could be getting bigger thanks to a change in the rules around the subdivision of land.
Dale McKeigan, a spokesman for the Municipal Affairs Department, said cemetery sizes haven't been an ongoing issue, but every now and then government gets applications or requests for different types of developments.
"We thought it was prudent planning to look down the road for something like this because the old cemeteries are starting to fill up," he said.
"It's nice to have things in place because it just doesn't happen overnight that you're buying land and having it ready to go for burial plots."
Before the changes, the province's special planning areas outside of Charlottetown, Cornwall, Stratford and Summerside wouldn't allow for the subdivision of lots bigger than three acres.
The elimination of the three-acre limit went into effect last week after the province received an application for a cemetery that exceeded it.
Individual municipalities have their own bylaws that cover cemeteries and are separate from the provincial regulations.
McKeigan said the application was for a cemetery covering about 28 acres near Charlottetown.
"We looked at it on its own merit and obviously to look at on the impact across the Island wide, as well," he said.
Although there isn't an upper limit on how big cemeteries can be, McKeigan said the government would use criteria internally to evaluate an application.
"There are some limitations that would happen based on the assessment," he said.
Tom DeBlois, the Sherwood Cemetery Company's administrator, said he wasn't aware of the restriction before the change, but didn't think it was a bad idea.
"It probably makes sense going forward in terms of just planning and having land available while at the same time recognizing people's wants and needs are changing," he said.
DeBlois said those wants include a growing demand for cremation, but with the Sherwood cemetery's current rate of plot sales, it has about 10-12 years left before it is full.
"Then we either have to find land in the immediate area or look for an alternate site," he said.
The demand for plots at the Sherwood cemetery seems to vary year-by-year with interest in cremation peaking in 2009, DeBlois said.
"It comes in waves."
DeBlois said that changing demand could lead to the Sherwood cemetery setting aside an area for a columbarium where urns are stored, if it ever expands the existing property.
But as for the application that sparked the change, DeBlois said he doesn't foresee in his lifetime a cemetery in P.E.I. that will take in about 30 acres.
"I don't foresee in the next few generations ever walking down amongst 30 acres of monuments, that's for sure," he said.