FAIRBURN, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Fairburn residents are battling over a cemetery where American soldiers are buried. The property owner wants to relocate the graves for new development. Descendants of those buried in the cemetery are asking him to not disturb the dead".
Venetta Thomas and Jane Storey have relatives buried in the Lester Family Cemetery on Senoia Road in Fairburn. All of those buried here were laid to rest between 1845 and 1912.
"We know there are at least four Civil War veterans and two World War I veterans here," Thomas said.
Many of the 65 grave markers can barely be seen between the thorny weeds and overgrown grass. Family members say that's not their fault.
"We tried to come in here and clean it up and the man that owns the property won't let anybody in there," said Storey.
"He's threatened to sue people if they as so much put a flower on a grave," said Thomas.
Mohammad Khimani is the owner of the property. He also owns Package Depot on the same lot. His attorney, Rick Lindsey, says the cemetery is abandoned and Khimani has never denied anyone access.
"He has never told anyone they cannot come to the cemetery," said Lindsey.
Lindsey told the Fairburn City County Monday night that Mr. Khimani wants to relocate the bodies at the Lester Family Cemetery to another cemetery in Fairburn and build a first-class medical or retail building.
"We request to move the deceased individuals from what has become an abandoned cemetery to a place where they will be cared for, forever," said Lindsey.
Those in opposition to moving the graves packed the city council meeting. Descendants told the council to let the dead rest in peace.
"I don't know of anybody who would like to be disinterred at this late stage, after 173 years," said Paul Lester who has family buried there.
The city council unanimously agreed with the descendants and voted against the proposal.
Thomas was very pleased after the meeting and said now they feel like they can go in and clean up the cemetery to the way it should be.