January 29, 2013
There could be a potential roadblock for the Route 29 Western Bypass as a cemetery has been discovered on VDOT property, sitting in the way of the proposed bypass route.
The African-American cemetery dates back to the mid-19th century and the Sammons family. Descendants of those buried there are still in central Virginia, and the debate has begun about what to do next.
Charlottesville city councilor Dede Smith, formerly the executive director of the Ivy Creek Foundation, is familiar with much of the African-American history in the area.
"With most of these cemeteries, these family cemeteries transfer with the deed," she said. "There's just a marvelous story attached to this family and to the people who are buried in this cemetery, and as it turns out, this cemetery is in the path of the Western Bypass."
The Virginia Department of Transportation owns the property where the cemetery sits. Representatives just recently contacted descendants of those buried there.
"How VDOT discovered it, at this point, we don't know," Smith said.
But now the debate begins over moving the cemetery or moving the bypass.
"From a historical point of view, it is situated in the community where they [the family] played a really significant role, so for many of us, it would be very disturbing to see it moved," Smith said.
According to a VDOT request for proposals dated September 27, 2011, the department reported re-aligning the road in the past so it didn't interfere with a pet cemetery near the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA.
Smith says in this case, VDOT wants to move this cemetery. She's heard the descendants say they want it to stay.
"They were a very important family in the community of Hydraulic, which is over by Albemarle High School," she said.
VDOT has not returned calls as of Monday night for comment about this latest development, so there's no word about the fate of the Sammons cemetery or how this discovery could delay the project.