Howland monastery drops mausoleum plan

HOWLAND — The Christian Coptic monastery on Squires Lane NE has decided to “love thy neighbor.”

Upon orders from the Coptic pope in Egypt, the St. Mary and St. John the Beloved Monastery has decided to shelve plans for a mausoleum on its property.

The mausoleum plans triggered protests from nearby Forest Hill Drive NE residents and an appeal in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court that was won by the monastery.

Monastery attorney Mark Mikhaiel of Cleveland confirmed the decision by the monastery to drop the plans.

“They wanted to be good neighbors,” Mikhaiel said. “The nuns thought it was more important not to create bad relationships.”

Mikhaiel said the final decision came from the leader of the Coptic church based in Cairo sometime after Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald J. Rice on Oct. 6 ruled for the monastery.

“It was a home run legal decision,” Mikhaiel said. “But I understand the plans for the mausoleum will be somewhere outside of Howland.”

Mikhaiel said the expansion plans for the other structures on the church property, including a 24,238-square-foot church and dining hall with a 550-square-foot canopy, are still going forward.

The 500-square-foot mausoleum would have had 36 vaults. Neighbors complained about drainage problems, possible maintenance problems and potential health hazards dealing with the remains.

Dorothy DeLeo, one of the neighbors who sought the legal appeal, said she thought maybe a visiting priest at the monastery had relayed the case to his superiors.

“We are just very relieved,” DeLeo said about the church’s decision to drop the mausoleum. “This has been an incredulous case. All the neighbors pulled together in this, and I think the next concern is about the flooding problems.”

Mikhaiel said the church will be staying within the rules provided by the Howland Zoning Board. He said the church will not be building a boarding house.

“I know things can get twisted around whether it is prejudice or misunderstanding,” Mikhaiel said about conflicting reports on the church’s building plans.

According to information from the zoning board, the church still needs to acquire permits, including its water runoff plan, for the expansion project before construction begins.