County passes bill to keep track of burial sites

The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that will create a catalogue of burial sites in the County.

The bill specifically requires the County Planning Board to create and update a list of burial sites within the County.

“It’s part of our heritage and our history here in Montgomery County, to try and make sure we can identify as many of these sites as possible and ensure that they’re there for people to appreciate,” said Council member Craig Rice (D-2).

Bill 24-17 requires the County to annually update the catalogue of burial sites, make a map of their locations and have it available to the public electronically.

The catalogue will cost the County between $156,000 and $260,000 annually in part to add staff to maintain the catalogue.

“Park and Planning doesn’t yet have the staff to support the kind of detailed work that is required,” said Council member Nancy Floreen (D-at large).

Council members Rice and George Leventhal (D-at large) introduced Bill 24-17 as a way to avoid any future confusion about the location of gravesites in the County after controversy arose about the proposed Westbard development zone in Bethesda.

Representatives from the Macedonia Baptist Church, located in Bethesda, said the Westbard development site had been the location of the former historic African-American burial ground, but sometime in the 1950s, the bodies from the site were improperly exhumed and moved elsewhere.

While the County hired anthropologists to investigate the Westbard site for signs that it was a former burial ground, Macedonia Baptist Church leaders led protests at both the County Council Building and County Executive Office Building saying they wanted the County to hire anthropologists selected by the church to investigate the site.

County Executive Ike Leggett said if human remains were found at the site, it would be up to a state agency, not the County, to decide what happens next.


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