Hall County Planning Commissioners have tabled a request from a home builder looking to relocate a cemetery after several descendent of those buried at the site raised concerns Monday night.
The Thompson Family Cemetery was moved to the site on Dunlap Drive from its original location in 1957 due to the construction of Lake Lanier. In 2018, Timothy and Susan Carey purchased the lot from the previous owner, Derek Pendarvis.
Gainesville builder and designer Richard Padgham was hired by the Careys to relocate the cemetery as they build a home on the property. In the application, Padgham also says he intends to restore the cemetery's tombstones to their original arrangement after county documents say Pendarvis had them rearranged in 2013.
Several citizens and descendent of those buried in the site spoke against the plan at Monday's planning commission meeting. Wes Hulsey, a Gainesville native and current South Carolina resident, said he doesn't want the cemetery further disturbed.
"There are potentially hundreds of interested descendants who had no knowledge of this plan up until two weeks ago," Hulsey said. "The graves may already be desecrated by site grading activities. These interment methods are wholly inappropriate for the fragile remains. My question is: why is the lot already graded and the house partially constructed and the applicant is just now petitioning the county?"
Planning Commission Chairman Chris Braswell asked the Careys to meet in person with as many of the descendants as possible to see if an agreement could be reached. The planning commission then voted to table the application from Padgham until November 18.
"There are two basic questions that I've been struggling with because this is a tough issue for both sides," Braswell said. "The first one is to the applicants: a concrete reason why the grave sites need to be relocated. To the descendants: if the grave sites are relocated in a respectful manor above and beyond what the law requires, as the applicants are willing to do and pay for at their cost as I understand, and it's done within the 75-square foot easement area, why would they be opposed to that?"
Susan Carey said she would be willing to meet with other descendants in the next month and no one voiced opposition to the plan to table the application. Planning commissioners told Padgham and the Carey's that construction on the home can continue during that time, but urged them to be cautious with any activity that might further impact the cemetery.