In Pompano Beach, residents are fighting against a developer's plan to construct an industrial office complex on part of the historically Black Westview Community Cemetery. WSVN reported that at a recent city meeting, voices of disquiet and discontent rose from within the community, not only rooted in respect for the dead but also intertwined with historical significance.
Sonya Finney, a long-standing resident, voiced concerns that the land in question might contain unmarked graves of infants from bygone years. "We were told that back in the day, that that’s where they would bury babies and put them in a box, not in a casket. And they would bury them there," she told WSVN. Echoing her concerns, 91-year-old Elijah Wooten, with a history as the cemetery board chairman, claims the developer's site was once a resting place for the impoverished, their final berths marked by paupers' graves in the 1950s and '60s.
The legality of the real estate transaction has already seen a failed lawsuit meant to block the sale of the 4.5 acres for $1.1 million. Local10 disclosed residents' belief in the deal's illegitimacy, with Sonya Williams Finney stating, "I saw the injustice and wanted to do what was right," to overturn the sale. She questions the morality of building warehouses on such a site, “Even if you want to build warehouses, why would you seek out cemetery land to build a warehouse? That’s just a little odd to me.” she said in an interview with Local10.
This dispute has, however, seen some headway as an attorney for the developer communicated to the city planning and zoning board that the purchase agreement included funds to repair and maintain the existing cemetery grounds. Additionally, a thorough examination for undiscovered graves using ground penetrating radar reportedly turned up no evidence of burials on the property, as attorney Keith Poliakoff told the board, “Did every inch of that property, and they found no burials were ever occurred on that property.” WSVN reported.
Despite this testimony, the Pompano Beach Planning and Zoning Board has recommended the rezoning proposal be denied, aligning with the community's sentiment. Meanwhile, Poliakoff has cautioned that their opposition might lead to alternative development plans that are less palatable to the community. With legal proceedings on the horizon, residents are poised to keep fighting into 2024 to preserve what they consider sacred ground.