Legislation would protect Montgomery County burial sites

Legislation would protect Montgomery County burial sites

Below is my comment on Montgomery County legislation that would protect county burial sites. Redevelopment of Bethesda’s Moses African American cemetery site, near the Macedonia Baptist Church, pushed the need to address burial sites to the forefront. A council bill hearing is scheduled today, September 12, 2017.

Thanks to SURJ MoCo: Showing Up for Racial Justice, Montgomery County MD for their advocacy on this issue. The bullet points in my letter are drawn from SURJ’s materials.

This version of my comment is addressed to the legislation’s lead sponsors:

Councilmembers Rice, Berliner, and Leventhal,

I write in support of Bill 24-17, Land Use Information-Burial Sites, and Subdivision Regulation 17-01. I recognize that you are lead sponsors of the legislation.

I agree with Planning Board staff’s analysis: “Staff finds that the proposed legislation in SRA 17-01 and Bill 24-17 is a beginning but believes that the County Council should more comprehensively address the topic of protection for burial sites and archaeological resources, in part by examining other review processes outside of subdivision review. Staff believes that the County could benefit from establishing a special advisory committee with wide representation to more comprehensively explore legislation surrounding burial sites and archaeological resources.” (http://montgomeryplanningboard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/SRA-17-01-Bill-24-17-burial-sites-HP-to-greg-final-8.31.2017_Final.pdf)

In particular, I call your attention to community advocacy, that further:

  • The County Council and Planning staff must solicit input from affected communities when crafting and evaluating planning documents and legislation.
  • Focus should be not only on preliminary plans, but also on sketch plans, requiring early identification of burial sites in sketch plan applications.
  • Burial sites need to be identified on all official documents and protected during all phases of planning and permitting—such as sector plans, residential and non-residential construction, tax maps, and road configurations.
  • This legislation only pertains to subdivision applications, but almost all of Montgomery County is already subdivided. All development applications should be required to appropriately preserve burial sites.
  • Provisions for discovery of unknown burials and emergency situations, with a requirement for archaeological protocols and additions to the inventory, should be added.
  • Enforcement language needs to be included here, with consequences.
  • To manage and monitor this agenda, plus conducting research and outreach programs, a full-time credentialed staff person is needed.

Thank you for your work on this legislation and for considering these additional points.


Seth Grimes

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