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Growth, Development put the Squeeze on Land for Cemeteries

Growth, Development put the Squeeze on Land for Cemeteries

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- The pace of growth in Utah County means more people must share the area's finite land resources -- and that includes the dead.

Many local communities need more room in their cemeteries, but it isn't easy to acquire land for burial plots in the midst of a real estate boom that sending land prices sky high.

"We're selling 500 to 600 lots a year and we're doing about 300 burials a year," Orem cemetery sexton Alan Sundquist said. "All the cemeteries are increasing in burials per year. Everybody is having to deal with the same things as us."

Alpine, Orem, Pleasant Grove and Provo, have already acquired more cemetery property. Provo is currently negotiating for land and American Fork is also looking to expand.

Mapleton, Eagle Mountain and Genola don't have city-owned cemeteries, but residents want them established.

Acquiring land for burial plots, however, isn't cheap. In Genola, for example, city officials had to take out a hefty loan to purchase 20 acres for a cemetery.

"We paid the going price for land. We took out a million dollar loan," said Mayor Eric Hazelet.

Historically, cities have planned for cemeteries much like they plan for roads and utilities, because burying the dead is an important part of community life, said Shaun Myers, who is president of Myers Mortuary in Ogden and spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association.

"What's happened in many areas -- and Utah County is a great example -- the cities have expanded so much that the foresight of our founding fathers didn't envision that the growth would be so great," he said.

Myers said there is some interest in the development of privately owned cemeteries, but said the industry is no longer viewed as a solid business venture.

That's due in part to a rise in cremation rates. Data from the Cremation Association of America shows the percentage of cremations in Utah rose from 17.4 percent of deaths in 2002 to about 22 percent of deaths in 2005.


Information from: The Daily Herald,

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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