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Developers' Challenge: What to Do With Cemeteries

Posted September 28, 2007

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— Many family farms in Wake County are being sold to make way for subdivisions.

Developers clearing the land sometimes have to deal with small cemeteries they find on the land. State law requires them to apply for permits and try to locate surviving family.

On Friday, crews were making room for one of Knightdale's newest subdivisions,  another 224 homes slated to be built off Hodge Road. Tucked away from the machinery on a quiet hill sat a mystery.

Colored flags mark a small, abandoned family cemetery. Developers discovered the graveyard and hired a professional, Ward Sutton, to research the possibility of relocating it.

Sutton said there are about 15 graves, and no one has been buried there since the mid-1950s.

“Anytime you talk about the removal of remains, it's a very sensitive issue,” said Knightdale Mayor Doug Boyd.

Boyd and other town leaders said they want more answers and more effort to find surviving family before they approve any request to move it.

“It's a critical decision, and we shouldn't have to make the decision on our own if there are relatives in the area,” Boyd said.

The town council voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the issue.

Steven Finn, with the Wake County Planning Department, said the county's rapid growth and sprawl into more rural areas makes the issue more common than it used to be.

From 2000 to 2005, Wake County averaged one or two requests a year to move graveyards. Developers made seven requests last year and have filed eight requests so far this year.

Developers in Knightdale will continue to work around the graveyard. Knightdale leaders believe they might have found some relatives of those buried in the cemetery.

The town will hold a public hearing on the issue Monday. They hope family members will attend to give input.

15 Comments

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  • oldrebel Sep 30, 2007

    I got to agree with tiger on this one. Many times the land is sold by by those who inherited it and knew nothing of th "old family burying place" back up in the woods. Again, personally I like the idea of family burial plots if you have the land and if the graves are properly maintained. Growing up we would go around several times a year and address issues around our kin folks gravesites, pull back the grass, clean the stones, perhaps even place some fresh flowers, or little flags for the veterans in our past. I thought it was a pleasant experiece cause as we did our familial duties the "old folks" that were with us would recount oral histories of the ones we were caring for, their lives...things that probably would have never been shared otherwise. I still go around to some of the old graves and do a little here and there. It's a good way to stay in touch with the feelings and promotes my sense sense of family. But I guess that makes me a "redneck" and beneath the majority. So be it.

  • Tiger Sep 29, 2007

    It coulda happened like this, grandma and grandpa buried relatives in the "family cemetery, later they are buried at the church, years later mom and dad die and are buried at the church as well. the grandkids inherit the land, know nothing of the cemetery, now grown up and in the woods, and sell it. I bet this is the case more often than not

  • still big Sep 29, 2007

    Where would you have buried 'em giffman?

  • giffman Sep 29, 2007

    The developer owns the land so they have the option of leaving the graves undisturbed or relocating them. As far as this not being disclosed at the sale of the property, I'm not sure how this happens. Of course the seller can just claim ignorance but c'mon. It's not like the people were burried 200 years ago.

  • BottomLine Sep 29, 2007

    how could this land have been sold and this not known ?
    seems kindof odd

  • lynddsy Sep 29, 2007

    kinda makes you wonder how many just didn't apply for permits to relocate. greed-family, builders, government. fortunately i don't care about my bones when i die. it's just my shell. not all people feel that way though. still boils down to greed.

  • ranquick Sep 29, 2007

    Rednecks in Knightdale...no way. I say the company who purchased the land is responsible.

  • ladyblue Sep 28, 2007

    giffman--You got that right. They didn't even think enough to properly remove the graves somewhere else, with those millions made. Sickening. They figure let the taxpayers pay for it.

  • giffman Sep 28, 2007

    Don't blame the developers. Blame the rednecks who burried their loved ones in the middle of the woods then turned around and sold the land for millions.

  • peaceout Sep 28, 2007

    yet another reason to loath "developers". RIP until I need that spot...seriously!!! Lakes, trees, history, now the dead....nothing is sacred.

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