SELMA – While there is enough land at the Selma Cemetery District properties to last another 17 years, officials with the special district said they’re searching for additional property now to make sure there’s time to secure the needed conditional use permits.

“We have approximately 3,000 plots available at our Floral Memorial Park, not counting our niches,” General Manager Sandi Miller said. “We do an average of 175 burials a year. So if you do the math, we have several years.”

Miller’s comments came during a special presentation at the Nov. 6 Selma City Council meeting. Miller came to clear up rumors that plots were no longer available for burials.

“Somebody might have misunderstood because while we do not have any plots in the four blocks around the office available, in our E and F blocks at Floral, we have 3,000 locations there,” she said. There are also plots at the West Cemetery available, she said.

The district oversees burials at three locations in town at Floral Memorial on Floral Avenue, North Cemetery on Thompson Avenue and West Cemetery also on Thompson Avenue.

Cemetery board Chairman Bob Allen said property closer to the sphere of Selma’s influence is actively being sought.

“We have enough reserve [funds] that we can, if we find a piece of property, we can purchase it,” he said.

Miller said the challenge lies in finding land where mineral rights can also be purchased. As a special district, the cemetery is not your typical property investor and thus certain legal requirements must be met, she said.

“We are required to go by the laws we follow to purchase land and mineral rights with the land. We cannot purchase land if we can’t purchase mineral rights along with it.”

City Manager Dave Elias said the cemetery district board had previously purchased 17.7 acres at Nebraska and Bethel avenues where grape vineyards and an older house currently exist. Plans to build the property into a new cemetery stalled after the Fresno County Board of Supervisors rejected them.

“We purchased the Bethel property and got the mineral rights on it,” Miller said. “Supervisor [Judy] Case was behind us on that project. Buddy Mendes wasn’t aware of what was going on and it did not go through.”

Allen said another concern is that even though the Fresno County Planning Commission approved the cemetery project on Bethel, surrounding neighbors had appealed it.

“That’s why it went to the Board of Supervisors. If there had been no request for an appeal, then that property would have become Selma Cemetery District. We were a little shocked with that,” Allen said. “We were trying to be proactive instead of reactionary. We have about 17 years left before we absolutely necessarily have to have a new place.”

Allen said architectural designs for the next cemetery are ready and were created by Paul Saito, the designer of Fresno’s Woodward Park Shinzen Japanese Garden.

“We feel we’re getting closer every year and we’ll soon have a piece of property we can call Selma Cemetery District,” Allen said.

While Miller said the district has been looking for the past 10 years for suitable land, Allen said he’s optimistic something would be found. Miller estimates that between the time needed to secure the conditional-use permits and setting up the new cemetery, there’s “a good 12-year pad in there that we have planned to look for property.”

Councilman Scott Robertson wondered if the current piece of property owned by the district on Bethel Avenue would be affected if, and when, the city’s plans to build the 680-acre housing development known as Amberwood comes to fruition. Amberwood is a mixed-use residential and commercial development planned for the eastern edge of Selma. It would be east of Orange Avenue, primarily between Dinuba and Floral avenues.

“It depends on how soon,” Miller said.

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