We have made some progress toward our goal, but there are some difficulties which I try to explain below, as I also detail the progress.
I researched the state and county regulations about opening cemeteries, and found no state requirements beyond the perpetual care fund and preneed sales bond if appropriate. According to the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 10, the preneed sales bond is not required if the gravesite is the only item sold before the need. I couldn't quite believe we would not be required to post the bond, but our lawyer read the law also, and said that is what he understood as well.
The counties have varying regulations, but Weld County was the most appealing since it merely stated that, in land zoned agricultural, a cemetery is a use by right. I called the county planning and zoning department to ask if there were any more regulations beyond having the appropriate zoning status, and I was told that is all there is to it. All we needed was agricultural land, and we could open our cemetery. I couldn't quite believe it could be so simple, so I called back a couple times and always got the same answer: it is a use by right, and there is no more county red tape or reporting.
I told our real estate agent of our purpose for the land she was helping us buy. However, she doesn't really handle rural properties, and though she commented on the fact that we would be using an access road, she did not help us see the difficulty posed by accessing our property by crossing the land of two other families. Not realizing we should ask the neighbors first what they thought of our plan, we simply bought the land (as a family, planning for the cemetery company to buy enough land at cost from us when it could). Our closing date was Sept. 18, 2006 and we continued working on accomplishing the routine business steps toward opening our cemetery, expecting to be able to open for real in February or March of 2007.
Now we have safely tucked away (in a Certificate of Deposit) $10,000 which we could use as the Perpetual Care Fund, and we also have a Colorado State Sales Tax License. Despite having a sales tax license, we did not already and will not yet sell any burial rights, because there are some other requirements pending satisfaction.
Had it not been for a conscientious public servant, I would not have known the county regulations were about to change so a cemetery will be allowed only by special review. According to the county regulations, the county commissioners have the final say on any activity by special review, and they could theoretically decide to allow our cemetery here even though the neighbors would prefer not. However, it has never been our intention to make enemies as we go about our business, so we are not pressing the matter here.
We now must make this place pay for itself, or turn around and sell it to get the right place. Regardless of which we do, we are working towards the parcel for the cemetery, one with direct access, and approving neighbors. In other words, we are still at square one. We have thought of using the money in the CD as the preneed sales bond, so we could sell burial rights before we have the land, bank that income to save for the land, and have a double assurance that we would give a complete refund if someone's need should arise before we can accomplish the purchase. I called the Colorado Division of Insurance to find out if that idea fits within the law. I was told that, since we do not own the cemetery land already, there is no way the responsible person there could approve our application for the license. He did suggest that we sell stock to raise the money to get the right land.
So, I called our lawyer to see about getting started because we want to make progress towards opening our cemetery. But when he said getting into stock is so extremely complicated we ought to try another way, I was relieved because selling stock does not feel like a non-profit thing to do- and we are definitely non-profit. Fortunately, he had a constructive suggestion: we can ask for small loans from our supporters. I asked him to write up a contract for such a loan, which he did.
I had the contract posted on this website for a while, until our lawyer sent me a copy of a letter he received from the Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Insurance, in which it is announced that "The Colorado Division of Securities is looking into the possibility that the promissory notes being offered by Prairie Wilderness Cemeteries may be a security." I had no idea our contract could be interpreted as a "security" and we have no desire to offer anything in that category, so the contract has been taken down and the offer is rescinded. Also in the letter was the information that the "Division has previously taken action against advertisements that a reader could interpret as an offer to provide a preneed contract." and that "a mutual understanding to provide a future final resting place is a preneed contract." Therefore I have removed some wording I had put on the website when I was under the false impression that such wording was allowed. We want very much to have a successful cemetery, and will stay within all the guidelines.