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Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Cemeteries and Development

Thanks to Carl Christensen for this story from the New York Times , "New Homes Confront Old Burial Grounds."  The article begins:

DAC ENTERPRISES, a small, mostly residential developer in Georgia, bought about 118 acres in Hall County, just south of the city of Lula, with the idea of selling lots to builders to put up single-family houses. The transaction, which was completed in 2004, seemed routine for the fast-growing exurb, 50 miles northeast of Atlanta.

But it turned out that the developer was in for a surprise — one that he says cost him about $40,000. In one patch of the land, hiding beneath bushes and trees, was a cemetery — 22 graves dating to the mid-19th century, including one for Neverson Cook, a veteran of the War of 1812. Only two were marked with inscribed stones.

“We did not know it was on the property when we bought it,” said Ray W. Gunnin Sr., the president of DAC.

His company hired an archaeologist to determine the number of graves there and the precise boundaries of the cemetery. Mr. Gunnin said the cemetery was cleaned up and a chain-link fence erected — not a legal requirement, but out of respect for the dead. “We didn’t want people riding bicycles and things like that across the cemetery,” he said.

He estimated his company had spent more than $5,000 to define and fence off the graves, which are now neighbors of around 70 new homes — and said he lost $35,000 because he could not sell the cemetery space, which is on a “nice little knoll that would have been a choice building lot.”

Of course, the neighboring lots may sell for more (because they're further from the neighbors).

Yet another example of the importance of cemetery law.

Alfred L. Brophy

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