Because plots with upright headstones require more maintenance, the city has allowed only ground-level grave markers in Phase 2.

DESTIN — Based on requests from some local residents, the City Council on Monday approved moving forward with changing the city’s rules on grave markers at the newer section of Destin Memorial Cemetery.

The first burial in the cemetery’s Phase 1 section on Stahlman Avenue took place in 1971, when the Destin area was still governed by Okaloosa County. The city was incorporated in 1984, began managing the cemetery four years later and opened Phase 2 on Sibert Avenue in 2002, according to city information.

While upright headstones are permitted in Phase 1, all of the burial plots in this section have been sold. Because plots with upright headstones require more maintenance, the city has allowed only ground-level grave markers in Phase 2.

But that policy soon could be changed.

“Several residents with large families, including some who are military, want more than just the flat stone that the military gives,” Councilman Cyron Marler said before Monday’s meeting.

At the meeting, Marler’s fellow council members agreed with his suggestion to allow upright headstones on 76 plots at an unopened area of Phase 2.

Overall, this phase currently has 684 full-sized burial plots available for purchase, city spokesman Doug Rainer said.

City officials said while Phase 2 currently can be completely mowed using riding mowers, with very little string trimming required, the installation of upright headstones would require workers to use push mowers and string trimmers.

That extra work could involve an estimated annual maintenance cost increase of $1,465 to $2,430, according to city information.

Destin officials currently charge residents $1,030 per plot and nonresidents $1,545 per plot in Phase 2. The city doesn’t charge an annual maintenance fee.

Because of the higher anticipated maintenance cost for plots with upright headstones, however, staff suggests possibly increasing the residential and nonresidential rates for such plots. One suggestion calls for a $2,000 residential rate and $3,000 nonresidential rate for such plots.

Before the meeting, Marler said the plots of several of his family members who are buried at the cemetery have ground-level grave markers.

“It is easier to use a riding lawn mower and not have to run a Weed Eater” by the flat markers, he said. “I realize there are some more maintenance issues (with upright headstones), but it can be done.”

Staff plans to soon bring back to the council an amended ordinance that will include the proposed changes for Phase 2. The amended ordinance would require two public hearings, as well as the council’s adoption at the second and final hearing, before it can go into effect.

Councilman Rodney Braden had an excused absence from Monday’s meeting.

In other business, the council:

• Learned from consulting firm WHH Enterprises Inc. that the cost to the city to acquire Gulf Power’s electric facilities in Destin could total about $71 million. City staff plans to schedule a workshop so the council can further discuss this possibility.

• Adopted an ordinance that prohibits many commercial activities in city parks.