Verify: Can you develop land on an old cemetery?

Verify: Can you develop land on a cemetery?

Last week, after human remains were found at a construction site in Pulaski County, many of you asked, "Is it legal to remove bones from a developing property?"

So Chelsea Beimfohr verified the facts using the following sources:

- State law from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources

- Bryan Tucker with the Historic Division of the Preservation Division of the Department of Natural Resources

After 8 to 10 bones were found on that property, the land owner, Patrick Sapp, called the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office. 

Sheriff Danny Brannen said after calling in the GBI and the coroner to investigate, it was determined that the bones were from the 1800s. 

Brannen says the land owner was doing some work to possibly sell the land for commercial use in the future. 

So can you move old bones to develop land?

State Archaeologist Bryan Tucker sent a letter to Pulaski County Coroner Fred Clark that said Georgia Code outlines the procedures for dealing with "abandoned cemeteries."

The letter and state code explain that if human remains are recovered from what is determined to be an "abandoned cemetery," an archaeological consulting firm would need to investigate to locate the graves. 

If graves are found, then the land owner would need to apply for a permit for to relocate the remains.

After that there are several more  requirements including evidence of owning  the property, an archaeological survey detailing the location of the graves, a land survey, a plan to notify the descendants, and a plan for relocating the burials.

According to another state code, a public hearing is also required. 

So yes, it's TRUE, you CAN remove old bones from a property you are developing if you follow the legal requirements. 

As for this case in Pulaski County, Sheriff Brannen says they've never had to deal with a situation like this. 

The county received that letter from the Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday morning and they are working diligently to determine what the next step is that they need to take. 

 

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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