OWLS HEAD, Maine — The town is asking county commissioners to reword its lease for a cemetery near the airport, saying few people are interested in lots because of the possibility that the remains could one day be moved.
A contingent of officials from the town and local cemetery association met Tuesday afternoon with county commissioners.
Ken Crane, chairman of the cemetery association, said the Owls Head representatives wanted to begin a dialogue with the county to purchase the 4.3-acre property. The yearly lease, which includes an annual cost of living increase, cost the town $672 this year.
However, Knox County Regional Airport Manager Jeff Northgraves said that the Federal Aviation Administration would never agree to the sale or allow the county to relinquish control of the land because it is located in a runway protection zone.
In 1995, the county agreed to lease the land off Ash Point Drive to the town for 99 years for the cemetery. Northgraves said that his predecessor had strongly recommended against the lease because he had concerns about the same issues now being raised.
The county commissioners in 1995 overruled the airport manager’s recommendation for public relations reasons, Northgraves said.
The town has invested $50,000 on the property to create and maintain the cemetery, Bonnie Post of Owls Head said. If the property cannot be purchased, the town would like to reword the lease. The current lease includes language that leaves open the possibility any remains might be “subject to relocation” when the lease expires, she said.
The town has subleased seven lots in the cemetery, and two people have been buried there, according to Selectman Richard Carver. But town officials said others have opted against burying loved ones in the cemetery for fear the remains might be moved.
Commissioner Roger Moody asked whether it would make sense for the town to restrict future burials to cremated remains so that if they had to be relocated, it would be easier. Northgraves reiterated his belief that the FAA was not likely to order remains to be relocated.
He suggested that local officials could request that the federal agency “loosen” the lease language so that potential lot leasers would not be scared off. Town officials agreed to work on proposed language for the lease and to return to the county commissioners later for their support before presenting anything to the FAA.
Northgraves cautioned, however, that getting the lease altered would not be a quick process.
“You don’t discuss a lot with the FAA. They’re a federal bureaucracy,” he said. “Common sense is not high on their priority list.”