SAMARIA - There are trees and a stream and some high-tension power lines that occupy the 71 acres on the southeast corner of Lewis Avenue and Samaria Road right now, but Bedford Township officials would like to fill that land instead with people - alive and dead.
After only its second executive session in eight years, the township board last week extended an offer of $325,000 to the owners of the property to buy the land for a township park and a cemetery.
The land, which is part of an estate, is being held under an option to an unknown third party, which has until Aug. 31 to close, according to an extensive memo written by township clerk Bob Schockman and released to The Blade under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
If the initial option is not exercised, then Bedford Township's offer - if the township and the owners can come to agreeable terms - would be next in line, township legal counsel Tom Graham said.
If the township is successful in obtaining the property, it would use a variety of funding sources to pay for it. According to Mr. Schockman's memo, the Parks and Recreation Commission would contribute $100,000 from its reserved funds for land acquisition toward the purchase, while another $61,000 would come from the township's cemetery account.
The remaining funds would be advanced from the township's general fund, and then repaid over a two-year period by the Parks and Recreation Commission with funds it receives from a 0.25-mill property tax it passed in 2003.
Mr. Schockman, who serves as the township board's liaison with the Park Commission, said the rising cost and dwindling supply of vacant land in the township has made it difficult to find land for a township cemetery and park.
"The township has been searching for suitable land for a cemetery for at least seven years without success," the township clerk said. Mr. Schockman's office oversees Bedford Township's cemeteries, and recently sold its last remaining lot, leaving no secular land on which to bury local residents.
In his memo, Mr. Schockman proposed dedicating the northeastern-most 7 acres of the whole 71-acre parcel for a cemetery. A parcel that size would provide enough grave sites for "the foreseeable future," the clerk said.
The Parks and Recreation Commission has had an equally difficult time finding land on which to expand its recreational offerings. The commission has concentrated its efforts in recent years on improving its existing parks by replacing decades-old playground equipment and building a popular new skating facility in Parmalee Park.
While the township's inventory of parks are very popular with visitors, Bedford Township's population increases may ultimately limit those parks' effectiveness. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments estimates that Bedford Township's population is likely to grow by as much as 30 percent over the next 25 years to more than 40,000 residents.
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