LOCAL

Upright headstones at Destin Memorial Cemetery may soon be going up

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

If uncle Joe or aunt Sue is buried at Destin Memorial Cemetery and their last wish was to have a tombstone marker on their plot, that wish may soon be granted.

Newly elected Councilman Torey Geile brought forth the idea of allowing upright headstones in certain sections in Phase 2 of the cemetery off Sibert Avenue as well as charging more for non-residents during Tuesday night's regular meeting.

Phase 2 of the Destin Memorial Cemetery is located downhill from the first phase. Currently only certain areas are allowed upright headstones, but that might soon change.

Before it was all said and done, Councilman Dewey Destin proposed a substitute motion to “allow tombstones anywhere in that cemetery.” The motion was seconded by Teresa Hebert and passed unanimously.

The Destin Memorial Cemetery has been around since the early 1970s and was governed by Okaloosa County. Destin incorporated in 1984 and began managing the cemetery four years later, opening up Phase 2 on Seibert Avenue in 2002, as the marker on the fence reads.

From 2017City rules at Destin Memorial Cemetery may change

Upright headstones were allowed in Phase 1, the main cemetery off Stahlman, but all burial plots in that section have sold. Because plots with upright headstones require more maintenance, the city only allowed ground-level grave markers in certain areas of Phase 2.

“Currently there are 81 flat plots available and zero tombstone marker plots available,” Geile said.

Destin Memorial Cemetery. [FILE PHOTO/DAILY NEWS]

He suggested that the ordinance be revised to allow for uprights on those plots.

“I don’t think we should be limited to what we can put on our grave plots,” Councilman Matthew Sweetser said.

“My grandfather is still sitting out there right now without a headstone because what he had picked won't fit the code,” Sweetser said.

“And I think it should be throughout the entire cemetery,” he said.

Destin agreed.

Headstones populate Phase 1 of the Destin Memorial Cemetery on Stalhman Avenue.

"When we passed this ordinance, I was here, and I thought it was really dumb then, and I think it's even dumber now,” Destin said, about not allowing headstones.

“If you look at the population in the cemetery from up the hill to the one down the hill (Phase 2), you'll see that the one down the hill is very sparse. There’s a reason for that,” he said, noting cemeteries have tombstones.

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At that point, he made his motion to allow tombstones anywhere in the cemetery, Phase 1 or 2.

Councilman Jim Bagby supported the motion.

Phase 2 of the Destin Memorial Cemetery is located off Sibert Street and is sparsely populated. Headstones may soon be permitted in this area.

He recalled the reasoning behind limiting upright headstones was because of maintenance.

“But I’m fine with putting headstones in there anywhere,” he said, as long as they meet the same height and width requirements already spelled out.

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The city of Destin website says that tombstones in Phase 1 of the Destin Memorial Cemetery, which faces Stahlman, “must be in accordance with accepted industry standards so that they will not settle, tilt, or deteriorate. Any materials used to construct a tombstone, marker, or other monument, must also meet industry standards. Each burial plot will be limited to one tombstone, marker, or other monument. Single burial plot monuments, markers, or tombstones shall not exceed 3 feet in height, nor exceed 32 inches in width, nor cover more than 2/3 of the width of the grave space. Double burial plot monuments, markers, or tombstones shall not exceed three 3 feet in height, nor exceed 64 inches in width, nor cover more than 2/3 of the width of the grave space.”

Some headstones were grandfathered in after an ordinance was passed to limit the size of markers on graves at the Destin Memorial Cemetery.

For Phase 2, right now, only ground-level grave markers are allowed. “Such grave markers shall not exceed 19 inches in width and 37 inches in length and shall be installed with the top surface flush with the ground level. However, each grave marker set must be leveled, and aligned, within plot perimeters so as to not infringe on adjacent plots or rights-of-way. Double grave markers shall not exceed 19 inches in width and 64 inches in length. Placement of grave markers must be in accordance with accepted standards so that they will not settle or tilt,” according to the website.

Bagby also made note that if someone is already buried there, and their loved ones would like to erect a tombstone, it can be done retroactively.

Staff was directed to bring back an ordinance for review at the first meeting in February.

As for charging more for non-residents to be buried there, Geile was looking for a 10X-mulitplier for non-residents.

Here is a flat marker on one of the grave sites in Phase 2 of the Destin Memorial Cemetery.

“We can charge out of towners more to use the boat ramp, but we can’t charge 10 times more,” Destin said. He then suggested they double what it cost residents to be buried at the cemetery.

"We have 13,000 residents and our residents take priority,” Geile said.

“The reality is we have a finite number of spots and our residents should have to come first,” Geile said.

City staff were asked to come back with a resolution for the cost of plots for non-residents.