Some residents upset over Dorr Twp. cemetery ordinance

DORR TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Some families in Allegan County are upset with how Dorr Township is enforcing an ordinance involving cemeteries. The township does not allow excess statues or landscaping without approval.

The ordinance has been on the books for almost four years and there are signs at the front of Dorr Cemetery to remind people it's in place. However, some people FOX 17 spoke with were very upset to find their precious items moved off to the side on wood pallets.

One of those items was a statue that means a lot to Michelle Bouterse and her family. It sat at her aunt and uncle's grave site at the cemetery since they passed. She got a Facebook message on Wednesday that it was no longer there.

"We never got any notifications, but specifically my cousins, who this is their parents or their siblings, never were mailed or notified," Bouterse said.

On Thursday she retrieved the statue from Chris Beukema who found dozens of items set off to the side in the cemetery a few days ago.

"A wooden wishing well, a lot of little plaques and sayings on them, little angels and animals and fairies," Beukema said.

He went to visit a family member's grave site with his uncle, Ray Siekirk, when they found items from several graves set to the side.

"I said 'Oh you’ve gotta be joking. Who did this? That ain’t going to fly,'" Siekirk said. "So all the ones that were in fairly good shape or not busted, broken off, we tried to salvage all of them."

They grabbed what they could and brought them to a relative's house.  They're trying to let people know they have them on Facebook.

"It was not stealing," Siekirksaid. "It was protecting other personal property."

Township supervisor Jeff Milling tells FOX 17 the ordinance has been in place for almost four years, since some things people were bringing to the cemetery were getting excessive.  He said some even planted trees outside of the plot lines, making it difficult for groundskeepers to take care of the cemetery.

The ordinance is posted at the front entrance to the cemetery and on signs throughout, though some people say it isn't enough.

"They should’ve contacted the constituents that had family laid to rest there," Siekirk said. "Notified them that they’re going to move them so they had the whole time to pick them up, but no they did it the wrong way."

"There’s a level of code of conduct for respecting a grave that we upheld and we believe in, and to see how these graves were basically raked clean and stripped from belongings and no real respect for cataloging," Bouterse said.

Bouterse is thankful Beukema grabbed her family's statue for her to pick up on Thursday.

"We have people that still really definitely do care and that’s the joy that we’re going to take out of this experience and move on," she said.

The township isn't throwing away those items. They have set them off to the side for people to pick up when they can.  Anyone found in violation of the ordinance could receive a fine of up to $1,000.

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