Possible cemetery development has homeowners concerned

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A group of Montgomery residents is fighting to keep a cemetery from going in behind their neighborhood. If the land is rezoned, property owners want to build a cemetery on Woodley road.  But some nearby homeowners fear it could be their neighborhood's demise, while developers think it could be good for the area.

"We need to be out there in full…so that they won't pass it," says one resident urging another to be at the next Montgomery city council meeting.

Homeowners in the Bellmeade neighborhood hope to have a packed house at the next council meeting--anything to convince council members of one thing.

"We don't want a cemetery there," says resident Ronald Bowers.

The council will conduct a public hearing for nearly nine acres of property adjacent to the subdivision.  Developer Xavier Harris hopes it will become Woodley Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

"We have legitimate concerns about safety. We have concerns about theft.  We have concerns about vandalism.  We have concerns about our property value," says resident Shelia Jackson.

Jackson lives adjacent to Harris' property and worries about living so close to a cemetery.

It's one reason Harris and his team re-worked their proposal after the planning commission voted it down months ago.

"What we've done is created a buffer zone [of trees] to make sure we're not impacting the neighborhood by any means."

Harris assured residents the cemetery will be gated with 24-hour security. Still, he's no stranger to opposition.

"These are the same people who were opposed to a residential development in 2005.  In 2007 they were opposed to an apartment complex."

Land owners say they've been trying to develop the area behind the Bellmeade subdivision for years.  They say residents there, though, have always halted those efforts.  But when you talk to folks who live nearby, they say they'd entertain other ideas--just not a cemetery.

"I'm not afraid of living, so I'm sure not afraid of the dead.  There's not a stigma.  There [are] just other things he can do with that property," says Jackson.

After all his failed attempts at developing the property, Harris says this is the last straw. Both sides hope their message is heard loud and clear when they appear before the council.

Not all nearby residents oppose the cemetery plan.  One man believes the development could bring activity to the area and help the funeral industry.

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