Q&A from Parent Forum on Amherst’s Cemetery Fields

To the Editor:

Concerned parents raised several questions at the Feb. 20 Parent Forum on Cemetery Fields.

1. What will happen to the playground after September 1, 2014?

The Amherst Recreation Commission stated that there would be no more public playground in Amherst come the end of summer 2014. No replacement has been found for the playground.

2. Were the Cemetery Fields donated?

The 47-acre Cemetery Fields was purchased and not donated. It was purchased at fair market value – $140,000 – utilizing interest gained from the Perpetual Care Cemetery Trust Fund, which was paid and overseen by the Trustee of Trust Funds not Cemetery Trustees.

3. Is it true that the sellers were against recreation use of the land?

The original purchase and sale agreement specifically allowed for recreation use of the land until cemetery expansion was needed. See paragraph 4 of the Purchase and Sale Agreement:

“Whereas the buyers do not anticipate utilizing this parcel for cemetery purposes for approximately en years, and until such time that said parcel is needed for said cemetery purposes, buyers intend to permit the town of Amherst to utilize the property for playing fields, and other such town purposes as the town meeting may direct, (except that the property shall not be utilized as conservation land or otherwise come under the control and management of the conservation commission), in consideration of the town of Amherst maintaining the said parcel.”

4. Is there an imminent need for a 47-acre cemetery?

No. Meadowview Cemetery still has the capacity for 661 burials. The average burial rate in Amherst is 22 per year.

Michael Costolo, a local principal analyst, recently reported the breakdown of unsold lots at Meadowview Cemetery:

Single Lots: 66

Double Lots: 225

Triple Lots: 27

Quadruple Lots: 16

Total Lots Remaining: 334

Total Burials Remaining: 661

5. Can the Cemetery Trustees sell part of Cemetery Fields?

Yes, the New Hampshire Attorney General Office, Charitable Trust Division has recently confirmed to me that the land can be sold at fair market value as determined by independent appraisal.

6. Would the sale have to go to the highest bidder?

No, a recent discussion with the AG’s office reveals any land sale would not have to be made to the highest bidder. The town would only need to pay fair market value for the land as determined by an independent appraisal.

7. A 1999 settlement decrees that all recreational activity will come to an end on September 1, 2014. Does the settlement block the sale of the land?

No, it does not. Breaking the title and selling the land supersedes this court agreement. This has also been confirmed by the AG’s office and by Amherst Selectmen.

8. How will the Cemetery Trustees pay for the new Forestview Cemetery?

Whereas the Cemetery Trustees have published the feasible steps to selling a portion of the land, to the best of my knowledge, they have neglected to inform Amherst residents on the steps to be taken to fund the new cemetery.

I did read somewhere that they petitioned the town twice for money. Twice, they were turned down by the voters.

9. What is the solution?

By selling part of the land to the town, the Cemetery Trustees would have about $180,000 to begin building a new cemetery. So for $180,000, Amherst could have a new cemetery and keep the playground and fields.

If $180,000 is not enough, then we can raise the necessary funds.

10. What can I do?

Vote yes on 26 and 40 for compromise and to save cemetery fields. Kids can’t vote, so please vote for them.