Mesa Cemetery, a shady oasis of green in north Mesa, would be expanded by more than three acres under a plan to be considered by the City Council Monday.
City officials are proposing to purchase two parcels of land totaling 3.15 acres on the north side of the cemetery and west of Center Street. The total cost, which has been agreed to by the property owners, is $670,000, said Craig Crocker, property acquisition supervisor, in a report to the council.
The new properties, which together are being called the Rolling Meadows North expansion, have room for about 4,000 grave sites, which would be added to the more than 50,000 in the existing 55-acre cemetery, he said.
As of June 1 Mesa Cemetery had 1,861 unsold plots available, which means that at the current average rate of 400 grave sales a year, the cemetery will be sold out in about four-and-a-half years if there is no expansion, he said.
Additional land already owned by the city next to the cemetery could be used for burial sites, but a radio-tower lease prohibits development of that property until after 2016, he said. Therefore no plots would be available for several years unless the Rolling Meadows North land is purchased, Crocker said.
The property to be acquired is largely vacant except for debris, said Rhett Evans, director of the Parks, Recreation and Commercial Facilities Department.
If the purchase is approved by the council, planning and design work could begin within a few weeks, Evans said. But he had no time estimate when actual earth moving would begin.
Combining Rolling Meadows North with the radio-tower property would put the cemetery in good shape to accommodate requests for future grave sites, providing enough space to last to 2035 at the current rate of purchases, Crocker said.
The cemetery is not a major revenue producer for the city, providing only enough income to keep it maintained through a perpetual care fund, Evans said. That fund is providing the money to purchase the two Rolling Meadows North properties, he said.
The cemetery, located between Country Club Drive and Center Street north of Brown Road, was created in 1891 and has been expanded over the years as neighboring properties become available.
Among people who are buried there are country music singer Waylon Jennings, who died in Chandler in 2002; Ernesto Miranda of Miranda rights fame; numerous founding fathers of Mesa; and British cadets who died in pilot-training accidents at Falcon Field during World War II.