Desert cemetery in Pima County
Al Brandenburg

By Al Brandenburg

Now that a true senior center is in the offing for next year, Maricopa Senior Coalition (MSC) is refocusing its efforts toward other amenities our seniors sorely need, like ageing in place, senior transportation, and in-home health and wellbeing services.

Having said that, a longer term need also requires attention. At the moment, aside from a local branch office, the only interment and funeral services available are in Casa Grande, including a cemetery. We need a cemetery somewhere within the boundaries of Maricopa with a funeral home where memorial services can be held.

Planning for a new cemetery requires determining in the first place whether a cemetery is needed at all. If it’s needed, what size should it be? Where can it best be located where it will not be an obstacle to municipal growth and where it will not be a public health hazard? Do cemeteries depress property values and, if so, how can real estate depreciation be minimized? How can the cemetery and the community be protected against future neglect?

The permanence of a cemetery as a land use makes decisions regarding it unusually important. The city planner knows any building can be expected to outlive its usefulness in two or three generations. The planner also knows if there is civic necessity for the removal of a building, the procedure is comparatively simple, although the cost may be high. This is not true of a cemetery. Not only will the cost be excessive, but legal obstacles can very well make removal impossible.

Cemetery land is, for the most part, situated in or near our cities, where land is not in oversupply.

A city planner tackling a problem involving a cemetery faces pressures, ideas and laws not paralleled in any other city planning question. The disposal of the dead is enmeshed in religious doctrine, custom, fear, superstition and complicated statutory law. Probably the most important single technique in handling the promotion of cemeteries is the delicate public relations job.

Having said all of this, MSC will make this one of our longer-term project priorities by working with regional funeral service providers and city government toward enabling a privately owned cemetery to be built in the next five years along with a full-service funeral home. With the upcoming 2020 census, there is a strong potential that Maricopa’s population will grow along with a strong increase of seniors needing services.

With the many city improvement projects ongoing and planned for the next three-plus years, more people with families and related seniors will be coming to the area to live and take advantage of available services; thus local internment capabilities will increase in importance.

Al Brandenburg is the director and secretary of Maricopa Senior Coalition.

Sources:, the American Society of Planning Officials

This column appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.