While officials are fast slamming the doors to the living in Ventura, they put out the welcome mat this week for the dead.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to amend a 1944 law banning the burial of the dead anywhere in the city limits to permit the burial of cremated remains in church plots or religious shrines.
Ventura Community Development Director Everett Millais said he was not sure why the city banned burials, but speculated that it had something to do with health concerns.
Ventura was asked to change its policies by Rev. Jerome E. Kahler, the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, who said that his church has received requests from parishioners "from time to time" to have their ashes buried on church grounds.
Kahler said St. Paul's hopes to establish a memorial garden next to the church building where the cremated remains of parishioners could be buried three to four feet underground.
"It has been determined that the interment of cremated remains poses no health hazard, as they are sterile mineral matter in granular form," Kahler assured the council.
As long as church memorial gardens are not "turned into elaborate cemetery things," Millais said he sees no problem with the amended law. City Council members agreed.
Explaining that there is no conflict with slow-growth policies aimed at the living population of Ventura, Councilman Richard Francis said, "The dead don't take up much room, and they don't cause any traffic."