Danville considers sale of Duncan Hill land

July 27, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

Danville City Commissioners are considering whether to sell about 3.5 acres on Duncan Hill to an unidentified buyer.

That land has been dedicated for expansion of Hill-n-Dale Cemetery, and few details have been made public about what the buyer intends to do with the property.

At Monday's commission meeting, resident Kerry Kenley broke the silence about the sale. Rumors and a petition about the property have circulated in the community for more than two months.

Kenley said, "I beg all the citizens of Danville to fight against this injustice to the black community and to our forefathers."


The land the city owns was given to the city by the black community for Hill-n-Dale cemetery in 1962. Until then, members of the community cared for the cemetery, dug graves and kept records of the deceased placed there.

Kenley said the cemetery is getting full and that the 3.5 acres is needed for graves.

"A lot of us have family out there," Kenley said. "We like to bury family with family."

Kenley said he believes that it is an "insult" to the black community to sell the land for someone's "personal gain."

Norm Bartleson, who is president of the NAACP, has attended several recent meetings when the commissioners went behind closed doors to talk about the sale of the property. It is believed that he is negotiating that sale.

But neither he nor the city is talking about what will be done with the land.

When contacted by the newspaper early in the process, Bartleson said, "It's time for Duncan Hill to be cleaned up. We want to beautify it, make it better."

Meanwhile, rumors about what will be built on the property range from $100,000 houses to low-income housing, according to Duncan Hill residents.

Kenley came to talk to commissioners about it on Monday.

"Is it true?" he asked.

"I don't think it would be appropriate to comment about it at this time," Mayor John W.D. Bowling said.

"I think we, as a community, have a right to know," Kenley said about the sale. "I think we should be told."

Commissioner Jamey Gay said that he wanted to talk about the sale in public.

City Attorney Ed Hays advised commissioners that they could talk about it, but that they should go behind closed doors and decide whether they all wanted to talk in public about it.

Mayor John W.D. Bowling said it wasn't time to talk about it, because the city didn't know all the details.

Petition about building project circulated

A petition has circulated in the community about a building project on Duncan Hill.

Resident Albert Hawkins told the Advocate in late June that his wife had signed a petition that asked whether "people wanted affordable housing on Duncan Hill."

Hawkins owns a lot on the street.

"Why wouldn't I sell my property?" he said, adding that he thought that to build houses on the street would better Danville.

Duncan Hill is one of the few areas in the city limits with open lots, and it is some of the least expensive property.

Hawkins said that he thought his neighbors were worried because if they build houses on the street then everyone would have to "keep their houses up."

Most of the residents on the street hadn't been asked to sign the petition.

Tanya Sanders hadn't seen it, but she'd heard about it.

"I'm not for low-income houses," she said. "I like it peaceful and quiet."

Sanders said she had lived on the street when a nightclub operated there and that she feared that low-income housing would bring problems to the neighborhood. "I think the people that live out here ought to have a say in it," she said.

Kenley said, "I call upon every citizen in Danville to flood (city hall) with calls protesting this. It is an insult to the black community. We can't forget the struggle our forefathers had to keep up that cemetery. We turned it over to the city (in 1962) in faith that they would take care of it."

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