Supervisors Seek to Protect Loudoun Burial Grounds

The county is looking into rules to protect historic cemeteries and burial grounds from new construction.

Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously adopted plans by Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) to develop a new rule creating a protective buffer around existing cemeteries.

It’s an idea that has support from, among others, the Loudoun County Heritage Commission.

“Recent problems at two cemeteries—the African American Burial Ground at Belmont and the Darne Family and African American Burial Ground in Arcola—prove the need for a zoning Ordinance that provides better protection and respect for cemeteries,” wrote heritage commission Chairman Robert Pollard in a letter to supervisors.

Last year, activists said construction at the intersection of Belmont Ridge Road and Rt. 7 was endangering a nearby cemetery.

“The truth is, we don’t honestly know if cemeteries have been disturbed already,” Randall said. “In fact, we probably assume that they have been not only disturbed, but built over already.”

Currently, the only rule on the books in Loudoun is a requirement in the Facilities Standards Manual that site plans include an archaeological study and that existing cemeteries be identified on site plans.

“This needs to be done,” said board vice chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “Should have been done a long time ago. I don’t think any of us knew we didn’t even have an ordinance.”

The Loudoun ordinance—which must first be researched by county staff, and then created through a Resolution of Intent to Amend—will be based on Prince William County’s rules, which require a 3- to 4-foot fence around existing cemeteries and 25-foot buffer around them.

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