The Town of Lacombe has laid its controversial cemetery debate to rest.
Council recently made the final decision to expand the Fairview Cemetery into the Kinsmen Ball Park.
Mayor Judy Gordon said after reviewing alternatives, council decided by a 6-1 vote that gradually taking over the neighbouring ball park was the best option. Councillor Bill McQueston voted against, arguing a plebiscite on the issue should be held.
The first ball diamond will be removed next year and will provide space for about 1,200 cemetery plots — about a 20-year supply at current burial rates. Over time, the other ball diamonds will be removed as further cemetery expansion is required.
To replace the lost diamond, a new ball park will be built on the southwest side of the town on a former landfill. Over the next three to five years, three or four diamonds will be built near the Willow Ridge subdivision.
Gordon said it will cost about $700,000 to build the new ball park, considerably less than the $1-million-plus cost of creating a new cemetery on other land within town boundaries. Going outside town also didn’t work.
“We asked a realtor to look for a site outside our boundaries and they could not find anything.
“The bottom line is there would have been a cost to the Lacombe taxpayer if we had relocated to the cemetery.”
Another factor council considered is that provincial funding is available for recreational facilities but not for cemeteries, she said.
The plan to expand the cemetery at the expense of the ball park was opposed by some residents, mostly in the nearby English Estates subdivision. They argued the expansion would damage a much-used recreational area and could hurt local property values.
In July, about 100 residents packed council chambers as municipal politicians debated a series of bylaw amendments required to expand the cemetery. Council unanimously approved the bylaws but agreed not to make a final decision on expanding the cemetery until all options were explored.
Concerns about the safety of building ball diamonds on a former landfill site was among the issues council wanted addressed. Stantec Engineering was hired and determined the site is suitable for sports fields and that is not uncommon for municipalities to use old landfills in such a fashion.
The town is also considering a camping site as well as new ball diamonds.