Fred Burtch, along with a contingent of supporters, presented a petition with 532 signatures to the Lysander Town Board during its last meeting June 14.
The petition, if the signatures are verified, will force a vote on whether the town should spend an estimated $4,800 on building a fence enclosing two sides of the Old Presbyterian Cemetery, located on Plainville Road. The other two sides are bordered by woods and a steep drop-off.
Voters would be deciding on the expenditure of budget money, not the erection of the fence. The petition is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the town, which controls the cemetery, and Burtch, whose property abuts it.
The Plainville Road resident owns a septic tank with a leach field extending under the cemetery, and according to a recent survey, has landscaping that extends beyond his yard into yet another area of the burial grounds. There have been other claims as well, including accusations of vandalism, stemming from missing and moved headstones.
Burtch has denied this, saying he entered the cemetery to mow the grass and keep up the property, and only moved stones back to the cemetery that had been found under driveways and sidewalks nearby.
The town's attorney advised Burtch last October to "abandon in place any part of the septic system located on cemetery property" and "not to enter the cemetery property for any reason." This letter was in response to Burtch's request to be allowed to continue mowing the cemetery, which he claims to have maintained since he moved into his home and continues to do now.
Two long time highway employees, however, have verified that the town has in fact continuously taken care of the property since they were hired in the 1960s. To date, Burtch has not moved his septic system.