Business requests for county to relinquish county road to protect at-risk cemetery

Published 10:00 pm Friday, October 22, 2021

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The Troup County Board of Commissioners heard a request at its Tuesday meeting to abandon a county road located just outside of Pine Mountain. The purpose of the request is to protect the well-being of a cemetery located along the road which, according to the requestee, is in danger of further ruin if the road is not privatized.

“They have vandalism, they have people going in there and kicking over tombstones,” said John McLemore, who represented the requestee, MAC Family Farm, LLC. “We’ve run off people down there who are smoking marijuana, drinking, parking. We have people down there riding four-wheelers who are tearing up the road.”

At the meeting, McLemore requested that the county abandon of Bright Star Church Road as MAC recently purchased all private properties on the road and wants to maintain good, controlled access to the cemetery and dedicate a perpetual access easement to the cemetery.

Bright Star Church Road is a gravel, dead-end county road located just on the outskirts of Harris County.

The cemetery consists of less than 100 visible graves, the majority dating as early as the late 1800s to the early 2000s. The cemetery is already in deplorable condition with sinking and overgrown graves and many of the headstones of the graves are faded out and broken, making the names on the headstones unreadable.

MAC is proposing to consolidate the five parcels that currently have frontage on Bright Start Church Road into two parcels. Both parcels will conform to all county standards with road frontage along Shake Rag Road, according to county documents. If privatized, the road would be secured with a code-accessible gate for residents who have family members buried in the cemetery.

Troup County Attorney Jerry Willis said that there is not much precedence, law or case-law wise, with regard to abandoning a road with a private cemetery. However, in order for a county to abandon a road, it must no longer serve a public purpose and notice must be given to all the property owners.

He further expressed concerns that should the road become access-only, outside family members of the individuals in the cemetery may not be able to access it.

“You just can’t not give people access to a cemetery,” he said. “It’s a problem that it’s open, and people are going down there and doing all kinds of crazy things, but I have a lot of concerns that these people that are family members are involved with the cemetery [not having access].”

As of Friday, McLemore’s attempt to find the title ownership of the cemetery is still not completed. Bright Star Church sits less than a mile from the church on Shake Rag Road but there is still debate whether the church owns it or not.

McLemore said that Mac would be been working with property owners in the area and those with family in the cemetery to ensure they have direct access.

“They’ll have their own lock with a code, they’ll have phone numbers to get in touch with anybody who goes there,” McLemore said.

A public notice publicizing the county’s intent to abandon the road currently sits on the entrance of Bright Star Church Road. The topic is set to be further discussed at the commission’s Nov. 2 meeting, per the notice.