Life or Death Situation: Northwest Community Trying to Revive Westview Community Cemetery

Many Pompano Beach residents want a cemetery deal dead. A portion of the Westview Community Cemetery, 1900 NW 24th Street Pompano Beach, has been sold – allegedly for approximately $1.4 million. But residents and the lawyers representing them say that the sale was faulty to begin with.

The topic came to a head at a Planning and Zoning meeting last month. KZ Copans LLC, a developer, wants approximately 4.5-acres of the 14-acre property rezoned from community use to industrial to build a storage facility.

“It’s not a piece next door to the cemetery, it is a piece of the cemetery at this point,” said Carla Coleman, Planning and Zoning board member, at the meeting.

Westview Community Cemetery was created in the 1950s as a resting place for Black people. Although it is not deemed a historic property by the state, it is marker of the Civil Rights and Jim Crow era. The Northwest Pompano community purchased the land from Paul Hunter as they were told by the White residents of Pompano that they could not be buried with them.

Richard L. Macon, owner of Freeman’s Funeral Home, 738 NW 3rd St. said at the meeting, “I don’t know who is trying to claim the cemetery… the community bought that property, that’s why it’s called Westview Community Cemetery….Someone trying to buy that land will be impossible once we present all the facts.”

But KZ Copans LLC is moving forward as if the property has already been sold.

At the Planning and Zoning board meeting last month, City of Pompano project planner Jean Dolan, said that a change in land use was compatible with the land currently surrounding the cemetery, and recommended the board approve the land use change.

Board members and residents alike, didn’t understand the concept of a partial sale of the land, with some residents stating that the initial deal made by board members of Westview Community Cemetery is unlawful. Westview Community Cemetery is run by a non-profit board, and many community members allege that quorums haven’t been reached in order to make the sale of the property valid, and that one of the signatures may have been forged.

Former Pompano Beach city commissioner Ed Philips, whose brother is buried at the cemetery, said at the meeting, “The existing board at the cemetery didn’t have the right to sell it.”

“Once this land is gone, there is no more. Once you fix up that land, where are we going? We are asking for money from the city and the county… We ain’t scared to say that we ain’t happy. We feel that these current board members mismanaged the land they were entrusted.”

In addition to sale, Phillips explained some other issues at the site: graves on top of graves, tombstones are missing or faded, and some say you can even see some of the deceased’s bones.

“We need regulation as far as distance of bodies in the cemeteries, you can barely walk to see your loved ones because they are so close,” he added.

Heidi Davis, attorney for KZ Copans, said at the meeting that the developer can help make improvements to the land after the sale.

“These conditions have lasted for almost 30 years,” she said. “Nothing has been done in 30 years. KZ Copans has come along and has agreed to help with the improvements of the cemetery. The proceeds from the sale of the property will help the cemetery make improvements that are desperately needed.”

These improvements include gating, landscaping, painting, new structures, and maintaining affordable burial options.

Coleen Duncan also known as Ms. Smoke, 67, wasn’t buying it. She told a representative of the developer at the meeting, “You want [this land] because it’s cheap, but this land belongs to the Black community.”

The Planning and Zoning board agreed to table the decision until it’s Nov. 17 meeting.

The community has hired attorneys Johnny McCray and Khambrel Davis. If you would like to donate to funds to help the community save the cemetery land from development, please notify Dwayne Sheppard via Zelle 954-612-1928, Cashapp $Steeringwestview, or check made payable to Davis & Davis Law.

VNEWS Staffhttps://www.apluseditor.com/
A hyperlocal newspaper focusing on Northwest Pompano and other black coastal communities in South Florida.

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