A. When a graveyard, wholly or partly within any county, city, or town, has been abandoned, or is unused and neglected by the owners, and such graveyard is necessary, in whole or in part, for public purposes, authorized by the charter of such city or town, or by the general statutes providing for the government of counties, cities, and towns, such county, city, or town may acquire title to such burying ground by condemnation proceedings, to be instituted and conducted in the manner and mode prescribed in the statutes providing for the exercise of the power of eminent domain by counties, cities, and towns. The locality may continue to maintain all or a portion of the burying ground as a graveyard.
B. The court taking jurisdiction of the case may, in its discretion, require the county, city, or town to acquire the whole burying ground, in which event the county, city, or town may use such part thereof as may be necessary for its purposes and sell the residue. The court, however, shall direct that the remains interred in such graveyard, if possible so to do, be removed to some repository used and maintained as a cemetery.
C. Should any county, city, or town, having acquired by any means land on which an abandoned graveyard is located, including lands acquired in accordance with § 22.1-126.1 for educational purposes, initiate plans to use that land for purposes other than to maintain the graveyard, such county, city, or town shall, prior to completion of said plans, develop and engage in active public notice and participation regarding efforts to avoid adverse impacts to the graveyard or to remove the remains interred in such graveyard to an alternative repository. Such public notice and participation shall include, at minimum, publication of at least one notice in a local newspaper of general circulation, notice posted at the site of the graveyard, and notice to and consultation with any historic preservation or other such commission, as well as area historical and genealogical societies, and at least one public hearing. The locality shall make a good faith effort to identify and contact living descendants of the persons buried in the graveyard, if known. In addition, the locality is encouraged to post such notice on the Internet, including appropriate websites and through the use of social media, and to consult with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Having given all public comment due consideration, the county, city, or town is encouraged first to adjust plans to maintain the graveyard as part of the larger land use plan or, if that is not feasible, to request permission to proceed with removal through the court or through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources should archaeological removal be appropriate. In any event, any removal of remains should be given all due care and respect, as should the selection of and reburial in another cemetery. This requirement for public notice, consultation, consideration of comments, and following due process for removal of human remains shall apply in cases where the presence of an abandoned graveyard is discovered during either the planning or construction phases of a project.
D. Any county, city, or town that has acquired by any means land on which an abandoned cemetery or gravesite of Virginians held as slaves at the time of their deaths is located shall notify the Virginia Department of Historic Resources of the location of such cemetery or gravesite. The Department shall record the location of the cemetery or gravesite. A listing of the locations of all abandoned cemeteries and gravesites of Virginians held as slaves at the time of their deaths that have been provided to the Department shall be maintained by the Department as a public record.
Code 1919, § 54; 1985, c. 95; 2010, c. 617; 2014, c. 588.