Hello, my name is Gavin Baker, I’m the manager at Ridge Hill Memorial Park in Amherst. I recently fielded a question from someone regarding the potential for a cemetery to be sold and developed down the road, and what would happen to the graves in a scenario such as that. I thought it was a really great question, and something that many others may have wondered about. For that reason, I am sharing her question and my answer here. I hope the information is useful to anyone who has wondered about this.
Question: “I’ve been told that Ridge Hill is a privately owned cemetery. It’s a business. My question is what happens if you sell the property in the future. How are we guaranteed that our graves will have perpetual care? That they are not moved to build on the property? I’ve been advised to purchase a plot that is on property owned and cared for by a township, village, city. So what protection does our final resting place have for future care and safety of not being dug up?”
Answer: “That’s a great question, thank you for asking. I think a lot of folks have wondered the same thing. In reality, we are governed by the same laws as a cemetery that is owned by a township/village/city when it comes to sale of the cemetery. You can find the specific law covering this in the Ohio revised Code, Section 517.21 and 517.22. No cemetery, either publicly or privately owned, may be sold until all remains, stones, and monuments have been removed and reinterred in a nearby burial ground at the expense of the cemetery operator. What that effectively means is that any attempt to sell a cemetery would be hugely expensive and impractical, and therefore extremely unlikely to ever occur. Aside from the legalities of it, we at Ridge Hill Memorial Park see this as much more than a business. Our grounds are a sacred space for our community to remember and visit their loved ones. Actually, it is less likely that Ridge Hill would ever be sold than a publicly owned cemetery. Ridge Hill is operated by a Board of Directors, elected by and from the people who own lots within Ridge Hill. That means that any sale would need to be approved by people who own property within the cemetery and have their own loved ones interred here, and is therefore next to impossible. A city cemetery has far fewer checks and balances in place. Further, Ridge Hill has established endowment care trust funds to ensure that there is a perpetual stream of income to operate and maintain the cemetery, even after all available grave spaces have been sold (we’re not even half full currently, by the way). City cemeteries are not required to establish endowment care trusts, meaning that their futures are much more uncertain than ours. Again, I thank you for this great question and for the opportunity to answer it. If you would like to discuss in more detail, please give me a call anytime at 440-233-5113. My name is Gavin Baker, I’m the manager at Ridge Hill.