FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Fayetteville will move forward with construction after concerns over unmarked graves on property being developed for an industrial park.
People in the area raised concerns that there might be unmarked graves on the property due to its proximity to nearby historic cemeteries.
City officials tell KNWA/FOX24 that available documents don’t classify the land as a cemetery, so the city will move forward with construction.
However, the city says if human remains are discovered, all work will stop immediately.
Feb. 8, 2021, City of Fayetteville Development Services Director Jonathan Curth:
The property at the northwest corner of Leeper Drive and Pump Station Road in the commerce park is being developed. (1st image, see overall map below. Property under development in light blue). To the west of this site is Combs Cemetery, which is delineated and is a protected burial property. A much smaller cemetery, but also recognized, is located along with Leeper and surrounded on three sides by the property being developed. Both are generally shown in the screenshot below in dark blue.
When this came up in late December and early January, staff vetted the assertion that the property under development is protected as a cemetery. Available documents indicate that the property is not classified as a cemetery and has been assessed for taxation purposes for at least 13 years. Taxation suggests that neither the state nor county consider it a cemetery since burial sites are exempt from property taxes.
That said, if human remains are discovered, they are protected by state law which dictates that all work must cease and consultation sought from the Division of Arkansas Heritage. Eric Mills, a State of Arkansas archeologist, describes the statutes, penalties, and procedures for this situation in the attached email. I shared this and the community concerns with the project’s engineer in January.