The enforcement of an existing rule at Fairview Cemetery took centerstage at city hall Tuesday night.

Rhonda Buell, the mother of Christopher Buell, who is buried at Fairview Cemetery, spoke to the Gainesville City Council regarding a sign that was placed July 1.

The Council met Tuesday night in a regular meeting.

She said the sign forbids the placement of memorabilia and decorations at gravesites.

“In doing this, you’re denying us the right to honor the ones we love,” Buell said. “... It’s our place to grieve. It’s our place to talk. It’s our place to throw a fit if we need to.”

Buell said she chose Fairview due to the high number of gravesites marked colorfully with flowers and personal mementos. Buell said she was told, originally, that the decorations had to be in line with the tombstone, and all broken glass and dead flowers had to be removed.

She said she brought a concrete bench to place near her son’s tombstone when she was told that was no longer allowed.

Kathy Grassman, the mother of Samuel Grassman, brought a photo of her deceased son to show the Council and said she chose Fairview Cemetery because her son’s friend Wesley Wolf is buried there.

She said due to a high number of bird droppings on a cross-shaped grave marker, she placed some decorative iron framework around it, and attached wind chimes.

The wind chimes, she said have become sacred to her as she believes her son communicates to her through the chimes.

“We need our gravesites,” she said, holding back tears. “We need them for us to remember our loved ones.”

Both mothers indicated they carry lawn scissors in their cars to maintain the gravesites anytime they visit.

Kathy Terry spoke briefly, saying she understands the cemetery sexton’s perspective and sometimes mementos are abandoned and it is hard to mow or weed-eat around gravesites cluttered with items. But she asked that some compromise be reached.

Dusty Luton, cemetery sexton, said a rule has been in place since 2002 stating no objects of any kind may be left on the gravesites, with the exception of floral wreath easels which may be left for seven days following the burial. He said the cemetery board voted unanimously in a June meeting to enforce the rule.

In an interview this morning, Luton said the sign at the cemetery is a 30-day notice to let everyone know about the rule enforcement. He said the stricter enforcement is to protect both workers who are required to move and replace objects when mowing and citizens whose personal mementos, such as ceramic pottery, may be damaged by a flying rock from a lawn mower.

Luton said he would discuss the issue further after a quarterly inspection Aug. 1.

He said plot owners need not worry about losing items of value due to the rule enforcement.

“We are not going to discard the items,” he said. “When we pick stuff up we’ll label everything with the name on the marker, and keep it for some time.”

Council member Beverly Snuggs said as long as the bereaved are keeping the gravesites maintained there shouldn’t be an objection.

“There has to be some give and take for these people that need this kind of thing for the grieving process,” Snuggs said.

Mayor Pro-tem Jim Goldsworthy said Snuggs’ point is valid.

“A metal post and a wind chime is not going to affect it (the area),” he said.

The issue does not appear on the agenda, and was not discussed as a point of business. Mayor Glenn Loch said the Council will take a look at the situation in the next month or so.

In other comments, Joyce Fletcher, the owner of several small ponies on North Dixon Street, objected to a summons she received to remove several small ponies from her property. An article on the situation appeared in a previous Register.

Following Fletcher, Jim Hatcher, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, stood before the Council and requested for the city’s code enforcement officer on behalf of a unanimous recommendation from the commission.

Hatcher presented a binder at least half a foot thick, which he said contained city code requirements to be enforced.

“I brought the others, but I’m not that strong,” he said.

In business, the Council unanimously considered a tree survey report from TreeConsult on behalf of the Parks and Recreation Department regarding trees at Leonard Park.

McCage said 199 trees were evaluated and 36 were removed completely. He said 34 were “mitigated” via “crown reduction” or trimming.

He said on April 15 at 5:30 p.m. a large, 75-foot tree fell near the playground area, which prompted the study. An intense wind storm April 28 caused more damage.

“This is a first. We’re taking great steps right now,” McCage said, of inspecting trees for pubic safety reasons.

City Manager Mike Land said city officials are considering a reforestation plan to replace all or some of the 36 removed trees.

“Seeing that the trees are already cut down, we’ll approve the report, of course,” Goldsworthy said.

And they did — unanimously.

In other business, the city hosted two public hearings on development regulations on major thoroughfares.

The Grand Avenue and West U.S. Highway 82 development regulations and standards amendments were both passed on first reading.

No one spoke regarding the West U.S. Highway 82 plan, though it was noted Bob Smith of Bob Smith Coachworks was instrumental in arranging for feedback and participation of area residents and businesses.

Wray Westbrook, of the Grand Avenue Veterinary Clinic, spoke on the Grand Avenue plan. He asked for a clarification on the details of the plan. He said he had not received a draft copy of the ordinance change.

Land said he was supposed to have received prior notice. He said the plan addresses a recent uncertainty regarding fencing height and setback dimensions along Morris Street in a back lot of America’s Car-Mart.

The Highway 82 plan issues height restrictions on buildings due to a nearby airport, defines landscaping standards, places a masonry requirement on frontage buildings and increased compatibility with city landscaping ordinances.

Since both items passed on first reading, the changes are up for further discussion a the next City Council meeting scheduled for Aug. 8.

Two other public hearings were held regarding alcohol sales at Runnin’ Red Food Store at 304 W. California St. and the Hitchin’ Post Truck Stop. No one spoke at the hearings. The Council suspended the charter’s requirement of three separate readings and passed each ordinance unanimously.

In other business, the Council voted unanimously to:

• Appoint Keith Clegg to the Gainesville Housing Authority Board.

• Approve a resolution to enter into an “inter-jurisdictional mutual aid agreement” with all agencies, cities and counties in the Cooke, Fannin and Grayson County region, for insurance purposes for out-of-area emergency, fire and police action.

• Approve a resolution authorizing the city manager or his designee to execute an electric supply agreement from Cities Aggregation Power Project, Inc. (CAPP) for deliveries of electricity effective January 1, 2007, to share expenses and possibly save on utilities costs.

• Approve a request for proposals for the old city water shop property.

• Award a bid for the sale of a small tract of property owned by the city at 1024 N. Dixon St.

In appointments, Loch named Nancy Brannon, Richard Lira and Mike McKenzie to the Airport Advisory Board.

In proclamations, the Booker T. Washington Community and Resource Center, Inc., was congratulated for its service to the community, recognizing its ninth year in operation.

In comments, Loch said the city is considering supporting a proposal by the North Central Texas Council of Governments to place a “super loop” around Dallas-Fort Worth as an alternative to the current Trans-Texas Corridor 35 plan. The mayor said he is in favor of the plan, which also calls for the use of existing Interstate-35 right of way to add additional lanes through Gainesville and Cooke County.

A map of the proposal ran in Sunday’s Register.

The meeting adjourned at 7:39 p.m.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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