FORT WALTON BEACH — City officials recently received an "interesting email" from an out-of-state Realtor interested in "buying a large portion of our cemetery for millions of dollars," Fort Walton Beach City Manager Michael Beedie said at last week’s City Council meeting.
He was referencing the approximately 40-acre Beal Memorial Cemetery at 316 Beal Parkway N.W. The city bought the property in 1955 from a business. Currently, nearly half of the cemetery site is open space.
Beedie made his announcement during the "city manager reports" portion of the council meeting and said he wanted to be transparent about the email. It was addressed to Jennifer Ballard, who is a planner in the city Growth Management Department, and copied to the council members.
"I am a commercial real estate broker from Wisconsin and I am looking for a five-acre site in the Fort Walton Beach area for a large office user," wrote Brian Starr, president of the City Commercial Real Estate firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "Do you know if the City of Fort Walton Beach will consider selling five acres of the FWB Cemetery along Beal Parkway? The buyer is willing to pay several million dollars for the land and will then construct a multistory building."
At the council meeting, Beedie said city staff reached out to Starr seeking more information on what he’s interested in doing but haven’t been able to reach him yet.
"Even though we don’t have it on the market, we haven’t even appraised it … someone is showing interest in it," Beedie said of the cemetery site. "We’re exploring the possibility."
Councilwoman Amy Jamieson asked if the Realtor seems to be serious with the offer.
Beedie said he didn’t know because he hasn’t talked with Starr. As of Monday afternoon, city officials still had not heard back from Starr.
The Daily News could not reach Starr for comment.
Fort Walton Beach officials have "reached out to (Starr) to better understand what the company is looking for and to determine if there is a viable site in the city that would work," city spokesman Doug Rainer said. "The city use of the cemetery property for anything other than a cemetery has not been discussed by the City Council."
According to city information, almost 8,500 burial plots have been filled at the cemetery, which has had more than 130 burials for each of the past three years.
There are 1,948 plots still available in the first 20 acres of the cemetery. A new section, called the Hope Section, has been opened and is moving into the second 20-acre section.