A battle to preserve an African-American burial site off River Road in Bethesda could spark change across Montgomery County, Maryland.
There has been strong public support for finding and respecting old burial grounds. Supporters of the Macedonia Baptist Church want to save what they said is a long-ignored, historic cemetery in the path of the Westbard redevelopment.
The dispute is in mediation. The Montgomery County Council heard public testimony on Tuesday on a bill to protect dozens of other cemeteries, now discovered or not, before they're paved over or moved.
“Burial grounds are sacred places, but they're also historical and genealogical resources,” said Susan Soderberg, with the Germantown Historical Society.
Montgomery County planner Casey Anderson backed the bill but warned state law allowed cemeteries to be moved if financially viable to do so. Residents who attended the council meeting were not happy with that announcement.
“This rubber-stamp board would put up a building or garage on top of King Tut's tomb if a developer wanted it,” said Robert Dyer.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a leader of the church’s effort, called for creation of a citizen’s panel to oversee any inventory of cemeteries and their futures.
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“In light of a long history of the planning board favoring developers over community interests,” she said.
Sponsors of the bill, including member Craig Rice, said the county is trying to correct how it view cemeteries.