A proposed cemetery a mile east of Selma was denied Tuesday by Fresno County supervisors, who backed up a previous decision by the county’s Planning Commission.
Neighbors opposed the 17.7-acre cemetery project because, once built, it had the potential for interrupting agricultural operations and devaluing nearby home sites.
Supervisors also opposed the cemetery site for similar reasons, voting 4-1 to support denial. The planning commission opposed the cemetery by a 6-1 vote.
Selma Cemetery District officials said they searched vacant properties and chose the Bethel and Nebraska avenues site because it was close to Selma and because they were unable to acquire property closer to the city or adjacent to the district’s two existing sites.
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“We looked for land in Selma, it didn’t appear there was any available that suited our needs, so we went outside of town,” said Alan Langstraat, a Selma Cemetery District board member.
He said a cemetery is a good neighbor. There are services about every other day, which means it will not be a considerable hindrance to those living or farming nearby.
Sandi Miller, district general manager, said about five years remain at their existing cemetery site. She said the district has been seeking property for about 10 years. District officials say there are between two and five years of capacity in its two existing cemeteries.
It will cause farming operations to cease around that cemetery 200 days a year.
Dan King, Selma-area farmer for past 43 years
David Horn, a principal engineer with Yamabe & Horn Engineering Inc., showed supervisors pictures of about a dozen cemeteries fully or partially surrounded by active agricultural land.
But Dan King, who has farmed nearby for 43 years, said a new cemetery is not compatible with surrounding agricultural zoning.
He said he was worried about the effects of farming operations – potential noise, dust and smells – on cemetery services.
“Those kind of things are in opposition to sitting next to a gravesite of a friend or loved one,” King said. “It will cause farming operations to cease around that cemetery 200 days a year.”
He said the county has a right-to-farm policy in its general plan, but the cemetery would interfere with rights of farmers.
Supervisors Buddy Mendes and Brian Pacheco, who both farm, opposed the cemetery because they didn’t think the site was compatible with adjacent ag land.
“If you can’t do your job during normal hours, that is, in my opinion, a huge disruption,” Pacheco said.
The only vote in support of the new cemetery was board chairwoman Debbie Poochigian, who said her family owns farmland adjacent to cemeteries and they have experienced no devaluing of their property or other significant issues.