New Castle County stops unauthorized burials near Port Penn

Amanda Parrish * Delaware
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

New Castle County has sent a cease and desist order to halt unauthorized burials at a property at Port Penn and Pole Bridge roads. 

A Light of Hope — also known as Muslim Cemetery of Delaware — owns the site, according to the New Castle County records. The department has directed the owner to stop using the land as a cemetery until a site plan has been approved by the county.

“Although the current zoning of the property allows for a new cemetery use, no land use plans have been approved by the department,” Brian Cunningham, the county’s director of strategic communications, said in a statement. “Nor, have any site improvements been inspected by either the State or the County. Therefore, it is premature for burials to be occurring on this property at this time.”

Cunningham said the county’s Department of Land Use was contacted about apparent recent burials.

According to the records, A Light of Hope submitted a subdivision land development application for parcel 1300900025 to the county in December. On 11 acres the owner wants to construct a 992-square-foot building and parking lot and have 6,667 gravesites. The project has not been reviewed in full by the county.

Rep. Kevin Hensley said in a Facebook post he received many calls and emails. He said his office immediately contacted County Executive Matt Meyer, who confirmed the county did not permit a cemetery there.

Hensley initially said in the post the owners would be required to go through a rigorous zoning process, but took the statement off his page.

“The county executive also said that the owners will be required to go through the rigorous zoning process if they wish to pursue the site for cemetery use in the future,” Hensley said.

Cunningham said the department, Meyer’s office and Councilman Bill Bell’s office informed funeral homes and the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services not to approve state burial permits for this property until the county has approved the use.

The Islamic Cemetery of Delaware said in a press release the Muslim Cemetery of Delaware has a valid cemetery registration certificate issued by the Delaware Health and Social Services.

"Every burial in the Muslim Cemetery took place after the issuance of a valid burial permit," the group said. "The cemetery was in compliance with the state law. Copies of the cemetery registration certificate and a redacted burial permit will be shared that will establish that the cemetery was duly registered and the burials followed requirements of the state law regarding burials."

Representatives of the Islamic Cemetery met with Meyer March 4 and the county planning questions have been resolved.