• Fight over cemetery land goes to court

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    FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - A battle over one man’s plan to build a home on cemetery land in Sandy Springs has gone to before the Georgia Court of Appeals.

    In 1900, Judge John Heard deeded a 1-acre plot of land off Heards Ferry Road as burial plots for his family and descendants.

    “I can’t even tell you how important it is,” Heard’s great-granddaughter, Nancy Smith, told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik.  “I’m about to cry just thinking of it.”

    In 2006, attorney Wright Mitchell said Fulton County mistakenly foreclosed upon the property for unpaid taxes, even though cemeteries are tax exempt in Georgia. 

    “The sale of a tax exempt property in Georgia is void,” Mitchell argued Wednesday to the two-judge panel.  “In this situation, Fulton County should have never taxed the property. The property never should have been sold.”

    After a series of transactions, the property ended up in the possession of Chris Mills, the man now suing Sandy Springs for the right to build on the property.

    His attorney argued that he should be able to build on the portion of the property that doesn’t currently contain graves.

    “The remaining eight tenths of the acre is not encumbered by any sort of burial,” said Chris Porterfield.  “There is no issue under the city of Sandy Springs zoning, Georgia law that would prohibit development of the property.”

    Mitchell argued the finding for Mills would set a dangerous precedent.

    “As long as there are descendants of the grantor who wants to use the property, and the property is maintained as a cemetery, which it has been, that the entire cemetery is set aside for burial purposes, that it’s sacrosanct, and cannot be violated or appropriated for another use,” he said.

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