Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1954 No. 297 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


The cemetery board has no jurisdiction over individual promoters of mausoleums on and for a cemetery owned and operated by a municipality.

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                                                                 August 12, 1954

Honorable C. S. Harley
Chairman, The Cemetery Board
11,111 Aurora Avenue
Seattle 33, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 297

Dear Sir:

            By letter of July 29, 1954, previously acknowledged, you request our opinion as to the jurisdiction of the cemetery board over promoters establishing mausoleums in city-owned cemeteries, to be operated and maintained by the municipality after completion.

            Our conclusion is that such projects are not under the control of the cemetery board, and are subject to state laws governing cemeteries only in so far as the municipality is subject to those laws.


            By RCW 1953 Supp. 68.05.090, the power of enforcement and administration of RCW chapter 68.28, dealing with mausoleums, is vested in the cemetery board.  But that power is limited by RCW 1953 Supp. 68.05.280, which provides:

            "The provisions of this chapter do not apply to any of the following: Any religious corporation, church, coroner, religious society or denomination, a corporation sole administering temporalities of any church or religious society or denomination, or any  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] cemetery organized, controlled, and operated by any of them, any county, town, or city cemetery, or any burial park having an area not exceeding ten acres."

            Thus, any powers which a city may lawfully exercise over a cemetery owned by it, are not subject to the control of the cemetery board.

            RCW 68.12.040 provides:

            "Any city may acquire, hold, or improve land for cemetery purposes, and may sell lots therein, and may provide by ordinance that a specified percentage of the proceeds therefrom be set aside and invested, and the income from the investment be used in the care of the lots, * * *"

            The latter provision as to the maintenance fund is permissive only, and is not necessarily the exclusive manner by which a city may maintain and improve its cemetery.

            Webster's New International Dictionary, 2nd Edition, defines the word "improve" as follows:

            "To increase the value of land by erecting buildings or other structures."

            There is no specific limitation in the statutes as to the ways and means a city may choose to improve its cemetery.  We interpret the cited statute to mean that a city may contract with promoters to accomplish the result, if it so desired.  This would not change the city-owned status of the cemetery.

            RCW 68.04.040 defines the term "cemetery," as follows:

            "* * *

            "(2) A mausoleum, for crypt or vault interments."

            If such mausoleums are city-owned, the cemetery board has no jurisdiction over  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] them by reason of the express exceptions of RCW 68.05.280 1953 Supp. quoted above.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General