Local News

Developers' Challenge: What to Do With Cemeteries

Posted September 28, 2007 6:33 p.m. EDT
Updated September 28, 2007 9:14 p.m. EDT

— 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.