A recommendation on whether to allow a historic family cemetery to be moved for a second time was postponed until Nov. 18 to give opposing sides time to try to work out a solution.
The Hall County Planning Commission voted Monday, Oct. 21, to hold off on the recommendation to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for final action.
“Would you be willing to do that prior to us making any kind of decision?” Planning Commission Chairman Chris Braswell asked property owner Susan Carey, who wants to move the cemetery on her 1-acre lot off Dunlap Drive, where she and Timothy Carey are building a two-story home.
“I want to give both parties every opportunity to try to come to some sort of conclusion,” Braswell continued. “This is not only a practical thing, but an emotional thing.”
“Yes, I would,” Carey said. “I just want to do the right thing.”
The issue at hand is that the 19th century Thompson family cemetery, as in the bridge, has already been moved once — in 1957, when Lake Lanier was created.
“The cemetery is slightly right of the dead center of the lot, and it’s hard sloping lot and the house sits lower than the cemetery,” builder Richard Padgham told the planning board. “It’s really in the way.”
He added: “If I cut too close into that sloping area, I could find things that I don’t want to find.”
The proposal calls for restoring the original layout of the graves about 40 feet to the south on the same lot, and give descendants access to the site.
The issue, however, has divided descendants speaking at the meeting.
“I think (the Careys) have gone to great lengths to try to do the right thing,” David Dunlap said in support of the move.
Gainesville lawyer Julius Hulsey took issue with the house being built before permission to move the graves was sought.
“They wanted to show you this castle of a house … before they come to you and say, ‘Forget the historical significance. (The cemetery) is interfering with our house,” Hulsey said.
“When we set off down this road, we had a site plan that left the cemetery like it is,” Padgham told the commission. “That’s why I’m here late in the game.”
Another descendant, Wes Hulsey, has said, “In my opinion, the remains of my ancestors should rest in peace.”
The original Thompson cemetery held 72 graves, with the other 48 graves moved in 1957 “to other cemeteries beyond the flood pool,” says a report from Athens-based Southeastern Archeological Services, which was filed as part of the application.
In 2013, the previous owner of the Dunlap Drive property hired a crew to rearrange tombstones and markers “to consolidate them into a circular pattern within the former bounds of the 1957 cemetery.”
“He also removed retaining walls and a concrete apron around the grave markers and landscaped the cemetery area, but did not move the grave contents.”
Still, “there is much uncertainty about how the graves survived the two rounds of reconstruction and rearranging,” the report says.
“There are two basic questions I’ve been struggling with,” Braswell said. “To the applicants, (what is a) concrete reason the graves need to be relocated? To the descendants, if the grave sites are relocated in a respectful manner … why would you be opposed to that, if it’s brought back to a more historical sense?”
If the relocation is approved, the entire process is expected to cost up to $25,000, with the Careys maintaining the gravesite, the Southeastern Archeological Services report says.