Why the King of Pop Can’t Be Buried at Neverland


michael-jackson-neverlandBy William Etling
Special to Calbuzz

Hotel rooms sold out in the sleepy Santa Ynez Valley Tuesday, as the world’s press corps descended in pursuit of rumors about Michael Jackson’s burial, viewing, memorial service and/or museum in and around his former Neverland Ranch.

As Santa Barbara County officials reportedly met about a local service for Jackson on Friday, fervid fans pushed a much hotter rumor – that he would be buried at Neverland, which would then become the site of a Graceland-like museum, one of the late pop star’s fondest dreams.

However, the illustrious patriarch of the Jackson clan, Joe Jackson, said Michael would not be buried there, and Don Loper, director for the Loper Funeral Chapel in nearby Ballard, had a succinct answer to the question.

“No,” said Loper, explaining that, legally, only ranches with grandfathered personal cemeteries may be used to bury remains. Of course, ashes could be scattered anywhere.

neverlandaerialThe possibility of a Jackson museum put Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr, elected on a slow-growth platform, on the political hot seat, caught between music fans and her pro-green supporters. Speculation about a Jackson museum ignored one King Kong-sized if prosaic issue, however: zoning.

The ranch is five miles from the tiny wine tasting town of Los Olivos, where “Sideways” was filmed, out in the middle of fields and farms.

Santa Ynez Valley residents have spent the better part of a decade on a simple update of their existing community plan. After all that effort, and some riotous meetings, the final product is not much different from the prior plan, and it says that agriculture is ag, downtown is downtown, and never the twain shall meet.

The ranch formerly known as Neverland (the new owners call it Sycamore Valley Ranch) is zoned agricultural. Legally, it takes a Conditional Use Permit to apply for a commercial enterprise on ag land.

Brooks Firestone, the wealthy, connected former Assembly member and ex-Supervisor, who started Firestone Winery and is the scion of the tire fortune, abandoned an attempt to get a conditional use permit to hold weddings at his Foxen Canyon property near Neverland in 2008. The votes just weren’t there for it.

Tom Barrack, who bought Neverland for $35 million in November of 2008 through his company Colony Capital and lives nearby, was mauled by his Happy Canyon neighbors when he asked to open a winery recently. He eventually got approval to make wine, but easy public access was negotiated away.

Even affable octogenarian Fess Parker (Disney’s Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and the dad in Old Yeller) was politically pummeled by locals when he wanted to plant a resort amid the vineyards in 2004. The Fess Fuss even made The Wall Street Journal.

In this vigilant valley, commerce and cows don’t mix, which is why Supervisor Farr said in an interview that protecting agriculture may trump any plans for a Michael Jackson museum.

etlingJournalist William Etling, the author of  “Sideways in Neverland: Life in the Santa Ynez Valley,” was interviewed about Michael Jackson this week by CNN, the London Times, French radio, Rolling Stone, USA Today, KABC-TV, and some newspaper in South Carolina, among others.

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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar bigsupporteroffans says:

    Where did Michael Jackson want to be buried when he died? Someway, I wish that his wishes were to be entombed at his former estate of Neverland. Whatever his wishes may they be granted? He is a music LEADER and HERO to the masses around the world. The rock fans have Graceland and it is my hope and mission to seek the truths as to why the greatest pop icon and friendliest human being who touched the world with his music and dance moves can’t have a say in his body’s resting place. Considerate people choose well; therefore, I know that the conditional use permit could be granted; and let Neverland return to the place Michael Jackson intended it to be. No one needs to give up their green living ways for it to happen. Great minds of California can come up with a plan that will include guided tours, slow growth, coupled with innovated green ways. California could use more money and Neverland could produce millions in a short amount of time as long as considerate Californians give up the greed to be so called GREEn!

  2. avatar OneWorld says:

    On July 1, 2009, latimes.com Posted this article-

    “State will expedite Jackson burial permit, if requested.
    Michael Jackson’s family said today that they are no longer considering burying the pop superstar at Neverland Ranch. But the state’s Cemetery and Funeral Bureau said it won’t stand in the way of a funeral or burial at Neverland Ranch – if that’s what Michael Jackson’s family chooses.”
    When Michael first moved to Neverland, didnt he have the zoning changed? I think The owners of Neverland and the area residents should come up with an agreement to open it up to the public, A portion of the income from Neverland could be given to help protect the agriculture and keep the area in the Green.

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