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MERRILLVILLE | St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church plans to create an Orthodox cemetery on its property along Mississippi Street near 89th Avenue.

Mike Suvajac, of St. Sava, said the cemetery would be on 15 acres of property. Zoning Director Dorinda Gregor said there would be 1,000 plots per acre, and there is space for the cemetery's future expansion.

Suvajac said the cemetery would be open to St. Sava parishioners and members of other area Orthodox churches.

"The need for the cemetery is very much so," Suvajac said.

All Orthodox Christian burial traditions will be followed, such as the deceased will face east, Suvajac said.

The town's Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday approved a special exception needed for the project.

Board member Chuck Stojakovich said St. Sava " has been in this area a long time," and he commended the church for being professional and for the high level of maintenance of its property.

The special exception request also requires Town Council approval.

Gregor said Councilman Shawn Pettit, who represents the ward in which the cemetery would be located, "doesn't have a problem" with the project.

Suvajac said St. Sava parishioners would handle maintenance of the cemetery. Professional contractors would be hired to create graves, he said.

A building could be created at some point to house equipment for the cemetery.

Gregor said the cemetery's landscaping plans will be reviewed by Merrillville's Environmental Resource Committee, which could provide recommendations to the church.

Suvajac said trees would be planted to screen the cemetery, and a fence will be installed around the property.

There are no immediate plans to plant trees or other vegetation inside the cemetery, but St. Sava church would be willing to do so.

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