A man suing the city of Sandy Springs for denying a permit to build on property containing an historic cemetery has agreed to let descendants of the man who dedicated the cemetery to intervene in the lawsuit.

The plaintiff, Christopher Mills, has asked a Fulton County Superior Court Judge to throw out the descendants’ claim that he trespassed on the historic Heard Family Cemetery, however.

The response to the motion to intervene clears the way for the judge to consider the descendants’ request to transfer ownership of the property to them.

Since 2007 controversy has surrounded the fate of the one-acre parcel containing the Heard Family Cemetery, the resting place of Confederate veteran Judge John Heard. Mills in July purchased the property from his in-laws, who bought it for back taxes in 2007. Cemeteries are tax exempt and the cemetery ended up on the delinquent tax list by mistake.

Mills’ in-laws, Henry and Wanda Cline, obtained the property from a Heard heir, Mary Ann Elsner, who in 2007 signed over her rights in order to allow the family to pay back taxes. At the time, neighbors thought the family planned to donate it to a historic preservation group. In 1900, Heard executed a deed setting the land aside as a cemetery for his family and his descendants. Heard had 23 children.

Their descendants now say Elsner had no right to sign over the property without their consent.

Mills, the Clines and the Elsners have declined to comment about the litigation.

Mills, a local real estate lawyer, wants to build a home on a portion of the property that he says doesn’t contain graves.

In his response to the motion to intervene, Mills says he obtained an archeological survey marking the cemetery boundaries.  In the motion to intervene filed in November, the 28 descendants say there has not been a “thorough and complete survey” to determine if graves exist outside of those boundaries.

Mills was representing himself in the case, but recently another attorney, Christopher M. Porterfield, joined the case to represent Mills. Both work at the law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh, LLP.

To read more about this lawsuit, click here.

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