ATLANTA, Ga. - A lawyer has been hired to make sure the current owner of a family cemetery doesn't build a house on the Sandy Springs land.
"Right now we're just gathering all the facts, but certainly we would contemplate legal action if the circumstances warrant it," said Wright Mitchell of Constangy, Brooks & Smith.
It's been 112 years since Judge John Heard set aside a one acre plot for a family cemetery. Now the descendents of the civil war veteran and the people that live around that plot are trying to make sure it stays as it is.
"It's family, it's heritage, and it's history," said Heard descendent Larry Specht.
Through what may have been a mistake by the county, the land was set to go up for auction due to unpaid taxes. Taxes aren't supposed to be levied on cemeteries according to state law, but a neighbor paid the taxes and acquired the property anyway. A building permit was filed with Sandy Springs, reportedly for the purpose of building a home on the land. The permit was denied, and has been appealed.
"I think it's wrong to do," Specht said. "And there's too much property that's available to use for whatever means rather than having to come into a graveyard site."
Though it was once on a remote family farm, the cemetery sits on what has become very valuable real estate. Houses have been built all around the plot, right up to its edge. Neighbors are trying to figure out why anyone would want to build even closer.
"Who would want to build a house on a cemetery? That's what I don't understand," said Elizabeth Langfelder. She remembers taking her children to the peaceful cemetery when they were younger.
The current landowners have not responded to a request for comment.