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City works to preserve century-old cemeteries

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 7:22 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston City Council is working to preserve century-old cemeteries from developers in the area.

City of Charleston Planning Department Representative Robert Summerfield says the city has taken numerous calls from local residents upset that developers are digging in areas know to be potential grave sites.

The way the current ordinance stands, there’s nothing the city can do about it.

“These are, generally speaking, older. They’re in the century plus time frame,” Summerfield said.

At a meeting Tuesday, city leaders are set to discuss an amendment to the ordinance which would allow the city to pause, and possibly end, work at a grave site.

While the state and county already have the ability to stop work, Summerfield says it can take months.

Summerfield says because the city is initially issuing the building permits, they can halt work much faster if evidence shows there is a grave site.

The newly-discovered burial sites often belonged to Native Americans or African Americans from centuries ago. He says assuring their remains are preserved is about more than just preserving history, its about respect.

“This ordinance is really centered around trying to ensure the dignity for these remains and for those descendants or what have you that may, you know, may not even know where those remains are,” Summerfield said.

City officials are set to discuss the amendments further at Tuesday’s council meeting.  The meeting starts at 5 p.m..

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