The operator of a closed Livingston County pet cemetery is hoping to form a nonprofit group that could avoid a sale of the property.

Heavenly Acres pet cemetery in Genoa Township closed after its lease expired Sept. 30. The 12-acre cemetery, which contains the remains of as many of 74,000 pets, had been operated by Linda Williams of First Pet Care Services, LLC which had attempted to renegotiate the lease with the property's owner but was denied.

In a video posted over the weekend to Facebook, Williams tried to answer criticism about why a cemetery would be located on leased land. She said that she had originally owned the property but had to turn it over to her ex-husband as part of a 2000 divorce settlement. But by 2002, she says the bank had sold the property as part of an eviction proceeding against her ex, forcing her to step back in and assume a lease on the land. She insists that if she hadn’t, the cemetery would have closed back then.

Williams says the property’s owner, Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, has since refused to negotiate with her on renewing the lease, forcing the closure and sparking concern among those with pets buried there that they would be forced to exhume the remains and move them or lose future access.

The investment firm that owns the land, Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, says the company is "sensitive to the concerns" of those with pets buried at the property and is hoping to find a buyer "willing to continue to maintain the pet cemetery." But Williams says she is hoping that a group of cemetery patrons can come together and form a 501c3 nonprofit group that would assume control of the cemetery and that Carol Street Park Ridge LLC would then donate the land to the group. She says the property isn’t worth much more than $75,000, while it would cost about $55,000 to demolish the aging structures located there and another $20,000 to replace the roof on a still-functioning pole barn.

Shari Pollesch, an attorney representing Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, previously said pet owners could retrieve grave markers or pet remains after making arrangements through her firm. But Williams says that process is much more difficult and dangerous than one might think, with the likelihood of remains being damaged or destroyed in the process along with concerns of air and blood-borne pathogens being released. (JK)