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Winter Park to Reclaim Unused Burial Plots

A new ordinance allows the City of Winter Park to reclaim and resell unused burial plots in certain cases. City commissioners say there are hundreds of plots that could be abandoned, and space is at a premium.

[Image of Palm Cemetery courtesy of Winter Park City Government]

The Palm Cemetery has in operation since 1906. It is considered a part of Winter Park history – even city founder Loring Chase is buried there. City commissioners are concerned that too soon Winter Park residents will lose the option to lay loved ones to rest in their hometown, since there are only about 1,500 plots left available. But after some research, cemetery employees have discovered an additional 225 plots may have been abandoned by their owners.

The recently-passed ordinance lets the city reclaim and resell plots owned by people who, for example, have died with no heirs and been buried elsewhere, or who have been out of touch with the city and unreachable for more than 50 years.

The ordinance spells out a series of steps city representatives must take before reclaiming the plots. Brenda Moody, Assistant Director of Winter Park’s Park and Recreation Department, says her department is conducting exhaustive searches through nationwide databases and census reports for plot owners or their descendants.

“When I find a family, which we have, that bought spaces here in 1910, and then I see them – the entire family – in the 1920 census in California, and then I can see all of them buried in a cemetery in California, then I’m pretty sure they’re not going to come back and pick up these four spaces that they left here,” Moody says.

When reclaimed, the plots will sell for about $5,000 apiece, generating up to $1.1 million in income for the city.

Moody says the proceeds are designated for cemetery upkeep.


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