Comstock Township revisits cemetery ordinance after May cleanup

COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Those visiting loved ones laid to rest at Comstock and Maple Grove cemeteries in May of 2021 found the decorations on the graves had been moved or thrown out.

The items were moved or thrown out due to a crackdown on a decades-old ordinance that has never been enforced.

The enforced ordinance in question was on the agenda of Monday night’s township meeting. Most public comments addressed drafted ordinance 524, which makes changes to the township’s cemetery regulations.

Those who took the microphone are families of those buried in the two township cemeteries, including Tamme Keller and Marla Schwartz.

“You go up there to grieve. You go up there to talk to your loved ones. You go up there and give them gifts and things like that. Then all of a sudden, they disappear,” Keller said.

“I understand there has to be rules,” Schwartz said. “But I think they’re getting carried away.”

Those against the ordinance, including Keller and Schwartz, took issue with Section 9 of the proposal, which says, “Cemetery lots or burial spaces sold after June 15, 1980, and remaining vacant fifty years from the date of their sale, shall automatically revert to the Township.”

But board members say that alone is not true.

“The township is not in the business of taking plots back,” said supervisor Randy Thompson.

In that same section, the proposal continues to say that the lots or spaces would automatically revert to the township if the last owner on record, their heirs, or legal representatives do not write indicating their desire to retain burial rights to that space within 60 days of notice from the township.

The Comstock Township board meeting on Jan. 24, 2022.

Clerk Nicole Beauchamp added this is standard from cemetery ordinances in other townships and jurisdictions.

“If we can’t reach the family, it will revert back to the township,” Beauchamp explained. “But if that family were to reach out years later and say ‘Hey we have plots, we still want to use them’ and they’re not used, they can use them, or we can buy them back from them and they would be refunded.”

Some families still have a problem with some of the limits on what items are and are not allowed, but board members say those limits are in place because of complaints from both lawncare staff and other plot owners alike.

Beauchamp also said that the keepsakes and mementos not thrown away can be picked up by the families at the township office.

The revised ordinance ended up passing its first reading unanimously, but changes can still be made to it prior to the second reading. 

Some families are considering hiring an attorney to take legal action against this ordinance.

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