What if a national veterans cemetery, with daily rifle volleys, were in South Barrington?
South Barrington would become home to an extension of Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery for military veterans under a federal agency's proposal that's drawn concern from the village's mayor about periodic rifle volleys expected at the site.
Under what's called an urban initiative, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs wants to acquire 15 acres near Mundhank and Freeman roads for the columbarium cemetery. Documents show federal officials are developing a master plan to start with 5,000 niches for cremated remains to be placed in a series of walls, growing to 50,000 over 100 years.
Officials from the VA's National Cemetery Administration will host a public presentation on the plan from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Hilton Garden Inn, 2425 Barrington Road in Hoffman Estates. Those who attend may provide feedback to the federal representatives.
If built, the South Barrington cemetery would provide a more convenient Chicago-area military burial option for eligible veterans and their families as part of the push to have such facilities closer to a city core, according to the VA. Lincoln National in Elwood is 57 miles from downtown Chicago.
Ceremonies would occur at the proposed South Barrington cemetery, including rifle volleys honoring the veterans before they are laid to rest. The rifle fire is expected three to five times per weekday when there are burials.
"Our veterans earned VA burial benefits and are recognized with a memorial honor guard," agency spokesman Rick Fox said. "Rifle volleys that are part of this recognition would occur between the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. The site would be designed in a manner to direct the associated rifle volley noise away from the existing residences."
But South Barrington Mayor Paula McCombie, who stressed she supports veterans, said the "misguided" proposal would not fit in an area that includes the Barrington Homestead Estates and The Preserve of South Barrington residential subdivisions. Cook County's Paul Douglas Forest Preserve is just west of the VA's proposed project.
"We would love to have them in South Barrington, but at that location, considering they're going to be firing guns off three to five times a day in a residential district and disturbing the peace of the residents that back up to the facility, we have to wait to hear from our residents to see what their opinion is of this," McCombie said.
Under the VA's tentative proposal, a main entrance wall and gate would be built with U.S. flags leading into the cemetery. There also would be natural and ornamental landscaping, a funeral cortège parking area, 30-foot-by-30-foot committal service shelter, a memorial marker wall and a roughly 1,300-square-foot public information and restroom building where visitors could use an electronic gravesite locator.
McCombie said the VA would need to go through the village's approval process to gain a zoning change for the cemetery to be built on the 15 acres currently designated for single-family houses on 1-acre lots.
Jacob Zimmerman, superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Kane County, is among those supporting the South Barrington plan. He said the Chicago area lacks veterans cemeteries, so the idea is "a no-brainer to ensure that there is a lasting tribute to our veterans who have given so much."
Arlington National Cemetery began offering a 5,000-niche columbarium in 1980. Arlington National plans to have 50,000 niches.