Opposition is mounting in Lacombe to a town plan to expand a cemetery into an adjacent ball diamond park.
More than a dozen homeowners in English Estates raised their concerns at a recent town council meeting about a plan to expand the town’s Fairview Cemetery into space occupied by four ball diamonds.
The Kinsmen Club of Lacombe, which runs the ball diamonds, is also urging the town to find another place for a cemetery.
Kinsmen Richard Radu said a number of members spoke out strongly at a meeting on Thursday against a town proposal to move the diamonds to a ball park in the northwest part of town that would be ready in 2011 to make way for future cemetery expansions.
In April, club president Craig Clark sent the town a letter that says the plan to build a new set of ball parks on what was an old landfill is “less than ideal.
“Members raised concerns about the safety of this area, the remote location, lack of mature landscape features, and the restrictive permitted land use.”
Radu said the club hasn’t changed its opinion and wants the town to look harder for a place to build a new cemetery. The club has a good relationship with the town and is willing to lose one ball diamond if absolutely necessary to allow the town to handle its immediate needs. But the club is against further expansion and the relocation of the remaining ball diamonds.
Homeowner Tim Wyatt finds the town’s cemetery expansion plans particularly annoying because he took the trouble to find out exactly what was planned for the park and ball diamond space behind his home when he bought it six years ago. He checked the zoning, talked to town staff, who assured him that the land was not slated for a cemetery, and confirmed that the town’s cemetery development plan proposed three other locations for future expansion.
“Now it feels a little like they’re trying to slide one in on us and not telling us anything about it,” said Wyatt.
There is much less support in the community for the cemetery expansion than the town led him to believe, he said, pointing to the Kinsmen’s reservations, neighbourhood reaction and a poll in the local newspaper that showed two-thirds of residents opposed the plan.
Brenda Vaughan, town community services director, said the town looked for alternate locations but could not find a site that suited its needs. Staff searched for other sites based on suitability, price and whether it would be a safe location for funeral processions. Nothing could be found that met all those conditions.
The town has met with the Kinsmen Club and residents to try to address concerns. A double row of spruce trees, hedges and lilacs will be planted to screen the cemetery from nearby homes.
There is a pressing need for more space, she said. The town sells 50 to 60 gravesites a year and the cemetery next to the Kinsmen Ball Park is nearly out of space.
The plan is to phase in cemetery expansion over a number of years. The initial small expansion does not affect any ball diamonds and would add 157 gravesites and 96 cremation plots to meet needs for the next couple of years.
By 2011, the town hopes to have the new ball park finished. At that point, the town would remove one of the existing diamonds to provide about 1,000 plots.
If the Kinsmen site is fully turned over to cemetery use, it would provide enough plots for 60 to 80 years, she said.
Council is expected to give first reading today to bylaw changes needed for the expansion to go ahead on municipal reserve land. A public hearing would then take place a month later.