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Home builder seeks to develop surplus land at Resurrection Cemetery

Buffer of trees, prairie will separate neighborhood from cemetery

Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of St. Louis is in the process of selling 70 acres of surplus land at Resurrection Cemetery to McKelvey Homes, subject to the approval of the St. Louis County Planning and Zoning Commission and the St. Louis County Council.

The site is in Affton near Watson and Mackenzie Road. Catholic Cemeteries has determined that the land will not be needed for gravesites. The residential development would not affect any existing graves or future possible gravesites, according to Matt DeWitt, managing director of administrative services for the Catholic Cemeteries. Without the land to be used for residences, the Resurrection grounds encompass approximately 230 acres, with plenty of acreage available to accommodate gravesites for generations to come, Dewitt said.

A buffer with trees and a prairie will separate the cemetery and the homes, he said.

The undeveloped cemetery property is a habitat for animals, birds and plants. There’s also invasive honeysuckle on the undeveloped cemetery land, which has involved much effort to eliminate the invasive plant and allow trees to thrive. “This will help with that,” DeWitt said. “We’ll have a prairie on the cemetery side to help create that buffer. We’re working with Erin Shank of the Missouri Department of Conservation on that.”

Catholic Cemeteries has teamed with Shank on other projects, including a highly touted pristine prairie at Calvary Cemetery.

Plans are in development to support and sustain existing wildlife populations at the cemetery. Common ground and trails will make up nearly 30 percent of the 70 acres of land being sold. McKelvey is consulting with the St. Louis Auduban Society and with Loomis Associates regarding strategies for enhancing the butterfly, bee and bird populations on the property.

Funds from the purchase will assist Catholic Cemeteries in its maintenance and care of the 17 archdiocesan cemeteries encompassing more than 1,000 acres. No money will go toward clergy abuse case settlements, DeWitt said.

The use of land for burials has decreased in recent years, DeWitt said, because of an increased use of cremation which takes up much less space for internment of the remains.

Catholic Cemeteries was approached by various home builders with interest in purchasing the surplus land. DeWitt said Catholic Charities chose McKelvey based on the company’s reputation for building quality, desirable homes with a variety of residences appealing to a wide range of homeowners — as well as their regard for existing wildlife and topography.

“We wanted someone who would respect the land and help with the social and economic good of the area,” DeWitt said.

McKelvey scheduled an informational meeting Jan. 23 at Affton High School before submitting the project to St. Louis County.

“Resurrection is a sacred and special place and the final resting place for my grandparents,” said James G. Brennan, president and owner of McKelvey Homes. “As an altar boy I made many visits to Resurrection for burials and pledge to develop a premier residential community that is respectful and in harmony with the natural beauty of the land.”

Brennan cited the extensive consultation in maintaining the natural habitat and wildlife and noted that the development will have a significant amount of undisturbed common ground, two lakes and several community trails. “There is a real shortage of new homes in St Louis County, and our neighborhood will satisfy the demand for those desiring to move up and stay in the Affton area,” he said. “A variety of home styles and sizes will be offered that will appeal to everyone from first-time homebuyers to empty nesters.”

Brennan added that the community will create numerous union jobs for the construction industry and generate tax revenue to the county, school district and fire district.

About Resurrection Cemetery

Resurrection Cemetery offers numerous options for burial preference, from private family mausoleums, crypts within four unique community mausoleums, ground burial and niches for the internment of cremated remains. Lawn crypts, floral lawn crypts, mosaics and shared family monuments also add to the beauty of this cemetery, with many different options for memorialization.

Archbishop John Glennon established the cemetery to serve all in south St. Louis, especially those without a parish cemetery, as Calvary Cemetery was serving those in north St. Louis. The cemetery was opened in October 1928, with the first burial on Nov. 15, 1929.

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