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DETROIT-The Department of Veterans Affairs has purchased a 544-acre site in Holly Township for a national cemetery. The VA bought the property for $6.2 million from Fagan Lake Development Co., of Highland, MI, about $800,000 higher than the property’s appraisal.

“The Detroit area has been on VA’s priority list for building a much needed national cemetery to serve the veterans of southeastern Michigan,” says Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. “We’re glad we now have the right property to convert this goal to reality in a relatively short time.”

The site chosen by the National Cemetery Administration was once proposed for a large single- and multifamily residential development. The former farm is zoned agricultural, and requires five-acre lots, so many developers shied away from the property.

Funds to purchase land for a cemetery were included in VA’s 2002 budget, administration officials say. The national cemetery will serve approximately 460,000 veterans who live within 75 miles of the site.

Presently, the nearest VA national cemetery is Fort Custer National Cemetery near Battle Creek, approximately 130 miles away. First burials in the new cemetery could occur in 2004. Another year will be required to build the cemetery’s permanent buildings and roadways.

The site is about 40 miles northwest of Downtown Detroit, two miles west of I-75 and bounded on the north by Belford Road.

The VA completed an environmental assessment of four possible sites in the Detroit area last fall. In total, eight sites were considered.

Administration officials said they found that developing a cemetery on the Holly Township site would have no significant adverse environmental impact.

However, a few township residents have said the cemetery will bring too much traffic.

The VA was looking for a minimum of 270 acres to accommodate 90,890 burial sites needed by 2040.

Nationwide, VA operates 120 national cemeteries, of which 61 have casket gravesites currently available. All veterans with discharges other than dishonorable, their spouses and dependent children are eligible for burial in VA national cemeteries.

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