HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Residents living off Success Rd. in Harrison County recently met to relay their frustrations with Southern Mississippi Funeral Services owner Stephen Hilton.
They say Hilton buried one of his family members on property he purchased 12 months ago - property right next door to Deborah Cooper's home.
Hilton reportedly didn't discuss his burial plans with anyone. Stephen Ely told WLOX News Now that Hilton only mentioned selling headstones, not burying people.
"We never knew anything about this. I don't approve of it," said Mary Bealle. "It's not right. It's depreciating our property."
There's a cemetery right across the street from the grave site, and another one right down the road.
"I feel like there's plenty of cemeteries. Why do they have to have it in front of a residential property, and I've spent a lot of money to have my home for my grand kids and some of my family," said Bryan Cook. "Why would I want this in front of my home?"
County officials say a permit is required for burials on personal property. WLOX contacted Hilton to ask if he went through the proper channels with the Harrison County Zoning Department, but he wouldn't comment.
He did call back Friday and said we are working very diligently to make things right that he is not trying to hurt anyone.
According to Harrison County Zoning Director Pat Bonck, Hilton never applied for the required permits to bury his family member. However, Bonck says Hilton told zoning officials that he is planning to build a family cemetery on 1 acre of the Success Rd land.
Christine Trombley says instead of burial plots, she would like to see homes built on the site.
"This is a nice area and I would love to have neighbors," stated Trombley.
In the last five years, Bonck says only three property owners have requested a special permit to bury a loved one on their land.
In order to build a family cemetery, Hilton must apply for a permit by April 22, have the property surveyed, then appear before the Harrison County Planning Commission on May 19 to announce his plans.
Bonck says residents are welcome to attend the meeting to voice their concerns. The May 19 zoning board meeting will be held at the Harrison County Court House in Gulfport in the Board of Supervisors meeting room at 5 p.m.