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Judge rules Georgia Power can't cut trees at King Cemetery

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 9:10 PM
Last updated 10:00 PM
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The sanctity of King Cemetery is safe, for now.

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John R. Wilkins Sr. (left) and Brinson Wilkins look at the graves in King Cemetery, built in 1891 by an ancestor. A judge ruled Tuesday that Georgia Power can't cut down trees in the cemetery to install lines.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
John R. Wilkins Sr. (left) and Brinson Wilkins look at the graves in King Cemetery, built in 1891 by an ancestor. A judge ruled Tuesday that Georgia Power can't cut down trees in the cemetery to install lines.

Superior Court Judge Mi­chael Annis ruled Tuesday that Georgia Power can’t cut down trees in the Wrights­boro Road cemetery to put up transmission lines.

“I think that removing the trees would be a desecration of the gravesites,” Annis said.

The hearing was the result of a petition for declaratory judgement filed by Georgia Power against Columbia Coun­ty Tax Commissioner Kay Allen, John R. Wilkins Sr., Brinson Wilkins and Marilyn Cooper – descendants of those buried in the cemetery, which covers close to an acre.

The property has changed hands several times since Con­fed­erate soldier George Wash­ing­ton King made the site next to Bellevue Ceme­tery his home. He constructed the cemetery, where he buried father-in-law and Choctaw Indian Wiley Taylor, in 1891.

The cemetery is the resting place for more than 10 people, including Allen’s great-great-grandfather, who was the county’s tax commissioner in the early 1900s. A partial archeological survey by Georgia Power located 10 unmarked graves, and more are likely on the property.

Each time the adjoining 45 acres were sold, the deed included an easement for descendants of those buried in the cemetery to use. The current owner, Marjorie Young, sold an easement to Geor­gia Power for an area along the border of her property, which includes the cemetery.

Though the King Ceme­tery easement is recorded, no one contacted the descendants about the construction. John Wilkins said he found a Georgia Power employee in the cemetery in the spring and has been trying to talk with company officials since.

The company filed for a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against the four descendants, who it said padlocked the fence around the cemetery.

Attorney James Purcell, who represented Georgia Power at the hearing, said any tree taller than or expected to grow over 15 feet would be cut.

“Trees would be cut for safety and maintenance,” Purcell said.

Purcell promised that no gravesites would be damaged, but Annis said it was impossible to remove the trees without damaging the burial sites.

Purcell argued that the families had only the right to use the cemetery, nothing more.

“If they cut the trees, it will never be the same,” Brin­son Wilkins said of the cemetery, which has remained largely unchanged.

Annis ruled that Young had the right to grant the easement to Georgia Power but that the company could not do anything to disturb the families’ abilities to use and enjoy the cemetery.

“There’s more to a grave­site than a place to deposit a body,” Annis said. “It means something. It’s the totality of the setting.

Annis said Georgia Power can go onto the property but “can’t alter or change or do anything to disturb the peaceful enjoyment.”

Georgia Power attorneys would not comment on ongoing litigation.

John Wilkins buried his wife, Vicki, in the cemetery Sept. 30 and plans to be buried there himself.

“We’re happy today,” Wil­kins said after the ruling. “But we know it’s not over.”

Georgia Power can still file to condemn the property to construct the lines.

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Little Lamb
47010
Points
Little Lamb 10/24/12 - 07:52 am
0
0
Law

Sounds like Annis ruled from emotion rather than law. We've got activist jurists from top to bottom, now.

Little Lamb
47010
Points
Little Lamb 10/24/12 - 07:56 am
0
0
Laws

On the other hand, we've got legislators who write anti-freedom, unconstitutional laws day in and day out.

Little Lamb
47010
Points
Little Lamb 10/24/12 - 07:57 am
0
0
Trifecta

And now we've got a president who rules by executive order when it pleases him, and who makes recess appointments when Congress is not in recess. All three branches of government are corrupt.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 10/24/12 - 10:37 am
1
0
Georgia Abandoned Cemeteries and Burial Grounds
Unpublished

Act of 1991 prohibits the destruction of cemeteries and requires that developers take steps to preserve them.

Georgia Code 1981, & 36-72-1 thru 36-72-16. Pages 801 thru 809.

Owners of or buyers of land that has a cemetery are required by law to physically and financially preserve the respectful resting place of the deceased. This law was passed because of the mindless, careless destruction of cemeteries used and abandoned which were in the way of urban sprawl.

Read the law. It is at the courthouse. CC did not even know this law was in the books. And after years of repeated request to have "cemetery" added to the CC Commercial Site Plan Unified Checklist, nothing has been added.

This four page county document lists everything from the owner's name, underground storage tanks, stump heights, streams, clay composition and landscaping. Nothing about cemeteries.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 10/24/12 - 10:39 am
1
0
There was a cemetery behind the Appling Law Center/Jail
Unpublished

It is probably under the floor of the expanded facility.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 10/24/12 - 10:44 am
1
0
Fortunately some caring
Unpublished

civic minded CC citizens have made numerous efforts to survey and document the county's cemeteries, names of deceased and burial places. The most recent cemetery book is the most extensive. It has preserved at least the names, if not the "dignity", that should be afforded the dead. The dead who cannot speak to their wishes to be respected in their final resting place.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 10/24/12 - 10:46 am
1
0
Construction and development trumps
Unpublished

all in CC. Even Georgia Law. Do a sounding, dig them up, pile the remains beside Washington Rd and then relocate.

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