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Forest Lawn Facts About Our Mausoleum

 

• It took approximately one year to get all of the approvals from the City and County.

• The County Arborist looked over the plans and felt that they were conservative in regard to tree conservation.

• There are no live oak trees being taken down. The plans call for 15 trees that are 12” in diameter or larger to be taken down, none of which are live oaks.

• The 15 trees being cut consist of: 6 Gums, 6 Water Oaks, 2 Pines, 1 Magnolia and approximately 15-20 smaller trees.

• To be environmentally friendly, a Landscape Architect made the plans rather than an Engineer.

• The Landscape Architect said that there are only 5 or 6 trees in total being taken down that would be considered mature trees, unlike the “40 mature trees” claimed in the article in the Savannah Morning News.

• Best Management Practices were used in the design of the mausoleum and its site plan. One example is our choice to build an infiltration trench for water run-off in place of a retention pond that would have required more trees to be removed.

• To date, approximately $100,000 has been spent toward this project and a contract has already been signed for the construction of the mausoleum.

• The canopy of live oaks and other trees along the roadway will remain, and the cutting being done will allow the live oaks to grow larger and healthier. The live oaks there are currently not considered to be specimen trees.

• A roadway required by the City is being placed which necessitates the removal of more trees than initially planned (included in the totals above).

• An additional, more expensive step was taken to install porous pavers in order to allow better water drainage onto the nearby live oaks’ root systems.

• Years back on this very site for construction, Georgia Power clear-cut an approximate 20ft. x 2000ft. lane for access of their power lines. 40,000 square feet of trees was cleared without anything being said. The mausoleum is only 3,500 square feet.

• Forest Lawn’s attractive mausoleum will be in a wooded setting, surrounded by as many trees as possible, with plans to plant more trees and bushes.

• The road leading up to the entrance of Bonaventure Cemetery is visually less than desirable, including the Placentia Canal.

• Many of the individuals who signed the “Protect Bonaventure Petition” were tourists coming to visit Bonaventure Cemetery, and they were met at the entrance by protesters. It is unclear what exactly was said to them, but several Forest Lawn lot owners said “people who signed the petition were told untrue things like we were clear cutting the area and destroying the canopy or cutting live oaks.”

• By comparison, Greenwich Cemetery has plans to clear 10 acres (435,600 square feet) - 5 acres now and 5 acres in the future.


The reason why we, the owners of Forest Lawn Cemetery, must follow through with the construction of the mausoleum is not for personal monetary gain as many are claiming. When we first purchased the cemeteries in 2004, they were fiscally unsound and had been for sale for approximately 7 years prior, with no one in the community – including local funeral directors, vault and monument companies – showing interest. As a general rule of thumb, a perpetual care fund should have about $200,000 per acre. Forest Lawn is a 50-acre, perpetual care cemetery, which means that its fund should have 10 million dollars in it. When we arrived in 2004, the perpetual care fund was well below 1 million dollars. Previous owners sold plots at lower prices that didn’t allow the perpetual care account to be fully funded and healthy. Forest Lawn is now approximately 85% sold out, and the only way for us as owners to effectively grow the fund to where it should be is to best utilize the undeveloped space we have available.

Making up the money missing from the fund is an absolute necessity for the long-term viability of Forest Lawn Cemetery. The best way to increase the perpetual care fund is to start a mausoleum program, which allows the cemetery to greatly enhance the number of burials per acre of land.

Upon acquiring Forest Lawn, we were met with additional financial barriers with the merchandise escrow account. The cemetery grounds were not being maintained properly; the newest piece of machinery was a 1976 Ford Tractor, and previous owners had prematurely taken hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the merchandise escrow account for merchandise that had not been delivered to families. Since 2004, for every past legal contract that has been presented to us for merchandise that had not yet been delivered and now had no money in trust to pay for it, we as a family/company have paid for that merchandise out of pocket.

It is our feeling that the primary reason we, as owners, have received negative publicity is due to the fact that some families have mistakenly and unfairly believed individuals they may have known for years who have a personal interest in them not doing business with us. To date, our company has never been found to be non-compliant with the Secretary of State, who oversees cemeteries in Georgia, and we have also been found to be in the right on every complaint filed against us. It is unfortunate that some people do not investigate why others in the industry might say certain things to them that are not in their best interest. We are always willing to speak to anyone about his or her concerns and provide the reasons for our decisions.

Our responsibility is to care for the 15,000 or more people currently buried in Forest Lawn and for the tens of thousands more that will be buried there in the future. Previous owners operated with no regard for the perpetual care fund or for the families who owned burial space there or would in the future. It is unfair to compare us, as private owners of a perpetual care cemetery, to the City cemeteries, which are not regulated by any state entity and are subsidized at nearly 2 million dollars a year that is paid by the taxpayers of Savannah. That figure will most likely increase in the future. We, as owners, could choose to lower our prices, sell out the cemetery more quickly and then walk away from the business. Lower pricing would leave Forest Lawn severely under-funded, and it would then be left to the lot owners to maintain. Instead, we have chosen to bury our own family at Forest Lawn, and we are the first owners in its history to do so. We have a vested interest at Forest Lawn and plan to be here for a very long time. We ask for your support as we uphold our responsibility to beautify and maintain the cemetery into perpetuity.

Warm regards,

Larry and Kyle Nikola

 

Photos of what is being kept

 

If you look to the back right of the photo, the orange construction fence is where tree removal starts - the entrance trees will all remain

The Canopy of Lives Oaks is and will remain untouched

As you drive down Greenwich Road, all of the trees in this photo will remain

All the trees in front of the orange construction fence remain

All the beautiful trees at the entrance will remain to help shelter and cover the mausoleum from the entrance view

These large trees will all be in front of the site of the mausoleum

The footprint of the building was designed to keep many large trees

The trees on the opposite side of the fencing will remain, and only the smalls trees in front of the fencing will be removed

 

This is the view on the drive to the cemeteries from Skidaway Road

 

This is the view of the road from Victory Drive

 

Here are entrance and exit views of the cemeteries

  

A photo of the clear cutting Georgia Power did to the entrance property

 

 

Photos of the manicured look already given to Bonaventure Cemetery

 

This photo along with many other photos on the petition website are misleading

This photo is not Greenwhich Road where the new mausoleum will be located