MARCO ISLAND — An 86-year-old Marco man’s dream risks running into a dead-end due to a state law restricting crypts and mausoleums.
Clayton Lietz has worked toward bringing a mausoleum to Marco Island for years. This past year he put the effort into overdrive, contacting all of the Island’s church leaders, government officials, including those on the city, county and state levels, and most recently, several attorneys.
Lietz wants to bring another option to Marco people outside of being in a Naples mausoleum or being buried — options that Lietz is not comfortable with for he and his wife, Lillian, 75.
“I don’t want to go in the ground,” Lietz insists.
“I may be running out of time.”
It’s been a painstaking endeavor for Lietz, trying to give Marco residents a place to rest after life that is closer to home. Last year, he says he narrowly survived a dangerous heart condition and most recently, he’s helping his wife through a risky surgery she underwent earlier this month.
His goal is to have the mausoleum at the Marco Island Cemetery, which was established in 1880. The cemetery on Elkcam Circle is currently maintained by New Life Community Church of God. The pastor of the church, Reverend Thomas McCulley, is supportive of Lietz’s goal.
But it may be out of both of their hands.
State Statute (497-260) states that the mausoleum must “limit its availability to members of the religious institution.”
Lietz says it doesn’t make sense for a cemetery that is older than the law itself.
“I’ve thought about the idea that people could become members of the church and then back out, but a lot of people already belong to another church,” he said.
Lietz is currenlty working with the Florida Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services in Tallahassee to see if there is a way to prevent one’s religious affiliation from becoming a nail in their coffin, so to speak.
Division Director Timothy Wheaton, who Lietz says he’s been in contact with, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Marco-based attorney Fred Mundie said there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s going to be a longer, more arduous road than Lietz anticipated due to the law.
“There is an exception in the statute for a cemetery that is adjacent to church land, which is what we have here on Marco. However, this exception is not granted if there is a mausoleum because of the burial sites being higher than one level. Therefore, the mausoleum could be built, but only if the cemetery would first agree to go through this qualification process, which is costly,” said Mundie in a recent email.
Lietz has done much of the ground work thus far, including getting PK Architect Inc., of Naples, to draw up preliminary designs for the mausoleum, which is to have 100 crypts and 100 urns. The structure is to be about 12 feet high, 50 feet wide and 50 feet long, according to the plans.
Ken Dear, a mausoleum builder based in Bradenton, Fla., estimated it would cost about $250,000 to build.
The laws are causing another conflict for Lietz’s goal. The state law requires that a fund already have the construction costs deposited, yet crypts can’t be sold until the mausoleum is approved, McCulley reported.
Contact Clayton Lietz, 394-7080, to contribute to the project or learn more.