Moroni City won’t give variance to allow local man to place self-made monument in cemetery
By Suzanne Dean
MORONI—The Moroni City Council has let an area resident know it will not permit him to place his self-created monument on his and his late wife’s gravesite in the Moroni City Cemetery.
At the Aug. 20 council meeting, Mayor Paul Bailey told council members they did not have to make a decision right away on a request by Roy Pogue, who lives outside Wales, for a variance to the city’s cemetery ordinance.
But after each council member expressed his or her opinion on the monument, it was clear the variance would not be approved.
Pogue said he started working on the monument, which has two seats embedded in the face and an aspen tree branch on each side, after his wife died more than two years ago.
He said he checked with multiple monument companies in Salt Lake City, Nephi and other locations but “no one could build what I wanted.” So he decided to build it himself.
He told the council he went into the city office to make sure his plans conformed to city requirements. A city staff member told him he needed to talk to the “sextant.” Later, someone called him and identified himself as the sextant.
Pogue said he was told that where two people are buried together, the front of a monument can extend a maximum of 80 inches. He said he was told the monument, front to back, can be a maximum of 26 inches. So, he said, he made his monument 70 inches across the front and 24 inches back to front.
He said he told the sextant, who turned out to be someone working for the city on contract, not a city employee, that he planned to put the aspen braches on each side of the monument. The branches are 5 feet 6 inches, his late wife’s height, and 5 feet 9 inches, his height.
“When I built it, no one told me there was any height restriction, just width and length,” he said. And (the sextant) assured me that if I stayed within that width, I could still be buried there without moving the stone. That was the reason for the width (restriction).”
Meanwhile, independently and without knowledge of Pogue’s project, the Moroni Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed and rewrote part of the cemetery ordinance.
The focus of the review was addressing how many small vaults containing cremated remains may be placed in a cemetery lot.
But the planning commission also looked at the dimensions for monuments. The planning commission did not change the width and depth requirements. But it added a height limitation. The planning commission decided monuments should not be more than 36 inches high. All the changes came before the city council, which passed a revised cemetery ordinance in June.
Pogue said he didn’t find out there were any problems with his monument until, after the new ordinance had been adopted, he tried to place it on his wife’s grave and next to where he intended to be buried.
Pogue said the monument has extensive symbolism related to his family. He put the seats in it, he said, so his great-grandchildren can sit on them, with the tree branches on each side, and “feel they’re in the embrace of me and my wife.”
Mayor Bailey said the width and depth of Pogue’s monument are okay but “as far as height, it’s way too high.” He said both the face and the aspen braches exceed the 3-foot height limit.
Bailey said he was also concerned about the weight of the monument, which both Bailey and Pogue said was about 2,000 pounds.
Despite what Pogue said he had been told by the one-time sextant, Bailey said the monument would have to be moved for another person to be buried next to Pogue’s wife’s grave. He said the company moving the monument would have to be bonded and insured. He said he had checked with a couple of monument companies. One quoted a cost of $1,000, which the city would have to pay.
“I salute you for creating a beautiful piece of work,” Councilman Craig Draper told Pogue. “It makes it really hard when you see something like this, the love you’ve put into it, the artistry. But, Draper said, “We still have to stay within the ordinances.”
Councilman Bevan Wulfenstein said, “I would have to describe it as a poetic piece of work.” But he said it might need to be displayed somewhere other than the cemetery where descendents could see and appreciate it.
Councilman Fred Atkinson said he ordinarily doesn’t like ordinances “but I totally understand there are certain times when you have to have them.”
Atkinson said additional footings would need to be installed to hold up the monument. “That stone will have to be moved and the base it is sitting on will have to be moved” to add a grave next to it, he said.
Councilwoman Jennifer Lamb was the only council member who said she hadn’t definitely made up her mind. Her concern was the materials the monument are made from, including concrete, rebar and tree branches as opposed to the traditional stone.
“What’s the maintenance plan?” she asked. Concrete deteriorates much faster than stone, she said.
Pogue said he never intended the monument to be a focus of public controversy. “This is personal for me and my wife and my family,” he told the Messenger in July. “…The whole thing has meaning. I’ve been working on it for over two years because it was something important for me.”
At the council meeting, Pogue said he might check to see if the Wales Cemetery would accept the monument, and if so, he might move his wife’s remains to Wales.
Later, he said an attorney had advised him to contact the county to see if he could set up a private cemetery on his own property, which is in an unincorporated area. But Sandy Neill, Sanpete County clerk, said county commissioners had decided some time ago against permitting graves on private property.