By ROBERT LINNEHAN
Is it a matter of privacy, a matter of a dilapidated fence needing repair, or a combination of both? Whatever the reason, neighbors of the Methodist United Church’s cemetery on Kings Highway across from the high school are criticizing the church’s attempt to take down and replace an antiquated chain link fence that borders a side of the burial ground.
At a recent Haddonfield Historic Preservation Committee meeting, the group tabled the church’s request to take down the fence to allow the facility an opportunity to look at its options.
Rev. George Morris said the church never thought the decision would rile residents the way it has. The church wanted to replace the chain link fence with a six-foot tall board on board wooden fence and sent out letters to residents of the neighborhood informing them of their plan.
Morris said the church had thought about making necessary repairs to the chain link fence, but decided to replace it altogether. It will improve the aesthetics of the area and will provide funeral attendees and mourners privacy they deserve, he said.
Right now several sections of the fence — which aren’t consumed by overgrowth — have an unfettered view of the cemetery.
“One, the chain link fence is in need of replacement. We also have some concern over privacy for people who come to visit graves and during funerals. There are aesthetic issues as well,” Morris said. “Replacing the fence will enhance the privacy of the area. It will be private for our neighbors and private for us. We also won’t have to get into concerns and issues of how people keep their backyards along the cemetery.”
Richard Hluchan, an attorney for Hyland Levin, represented Lee Avenue resident Maryanne Campling at Wednesday’s meeting. Hluchan contended that the fence proposed by the church is not appropriate for a 19th century cemetery.
A chain link, wrought iron fence, or a cast iron fence is more appropriate for a cemetery, he said.
“If the cemetery is concerned about privacy, the residents of Lee Avenue have coexisted with the cemetery for 100 years. However, we pointed out to them that all they have to do is plant ivy. Part of the fence is covered with ivy now, all they have to do is plant ivy on the rest of the fence,” he said. “It grows like weeds. I think that would solve the problem.”
A representative from Methodist United Church could not be reached to discuss the group’s future plans.