An amendment to Grantsville City’s cemetery code has set a moratorium on plot sales at the portion of the Clark Historic Farm slated to become a burial ground.
In a split vote preceded by a heated discussion, the council voted to temporarily ban the sale of graves in the field north of the Clark Farm.
Councilman Scott Stice made a motion to accept the city’s cemetery code, which specified or respecified policies and procedures on visitation hours, allowed monuments and sexton duties, and proposed adding the amendment for selling plots at the Clark Farm for two years. Councilman Neil Critchlow seconded the motion.
The 40-acre parcel in question was designated as the city’s cemetery expansion in November 2010. The farm was purchased as a whole for $335,000, and the city has spent roughly $65,000 in improvements on the parcel to groom it for future cemetery use.
Councilman Tom Tripp said he was concerned about the lack of discussion precipitating such a decision, especially in light of an engineering report that noted several improvements to buildings on the Clark Farm property would be necessary to make them safe for public use.
“I’m really concerned about that kind of amendment,” he said. “We’ve got no lots right now, we’re going to develop no lots in the next 12 months — I don’t know if it services the public to make that motion.
He added, “I think we ought to have a general discussion on the Clark Farm. We just got a report from a structural engineer that says you shouldn’t be doing anything down there with the public, nothing, because the structures [are unsafe]. I think you might want to add that to your amendment, Scott, to suspend any further activities near any structures there.”
Councilman Mike Johnson also noted that he had heard from several families who were interested in buying family plots in the portion of the Clark Farm prepared for the city’s cemetery expansion.
“There are a lot of families expressing interest in family plots. You’re taking that away from them,” he said.
Mayor Brent Marshall said he, too, had heard from several families who wanted to buy group plots specifically at the Clark Farm.
Councilman Mike Colson said another property purchased by the city for cemetery expansion — a 3.1-acre lot on the current cemetery’s east border formerly owned by the Wooten family and bought in October for $82,000 — would likely be ready to start selling plots within six months. That would remove the urgency for selling lots behind the Clark Farm.
Marshall said at the current rate of burial — 20 internments per year — the Wooten property would last 12 years before another expansion would be necessary.
Tripp said he was also concerned about the legality of adding such an amendment to a vote about a cemetery’s policy, especially where it would restrict use of a city property and service.
“I’m concerned this is parliamentary incorrect,” he said. “It has not been an agenda item, it hasn’t had a chance to be fully discussed; it’s just added on to a motion on the table, so I’m a little bit put off by that. I’m not sure we can in good conscience make that kind of motion without putting it on the agenda. I think we ought to investigate the legality of that amendment in the context of public meetings and openness.”
Grantsville City Attorney Joel Linares said there was no hard-and-fast rule about such an amendment.
“I think it’s a gray area,” he said. “You’re updating a code for the policies, duties, procedures and how the cemeteries will be run — it’s going to fall into that. It’s a gray area. You can argue that.”
The council voted 3-2 to pass the measure with the amendment, with Stice, Critchlow and Colson voting yea and Tripp and Johnson voting nay.