City To Consider Becoming a Stakeholder of Historic Hillside Cemetery

Candace Wheeler, executive director of the Comstock Cemetery Foundation.
Candace Wheeler, executive director of the Comstock Cemetery Foundation.

The controversial move to disinter hundreds of bodies from a historic Reno cemetery has been suspended, but a part of the issue is going to be heard before city hall Wednesday.

The Reno City Council will consider a resolution at Wednesday’s ’s meeting to become an active stakeholder in the proposed development of the cemetery. The resolution will allow the city to use its assets, including staff time.

The agenda item comes after last week’s Historical Resources Commission meeting, where commissioners heard a presentation about why private disinterment of historic cemeteries can be controversial.

Candace Wheeler, executive director of the non-profit Comstock Cemetery Foundation, which maintains a historic cemetery in Virginia City, gave the presentation.

“It costs a lot of money to do it right, and if you’re into private development, your goal is to make money,” she said. “There tends to be a lot of shortcuts taken, bodies folded in half, items stolen — it’s just not a pretty sight.”

Wheeler said that poor planning and years of neglect have contributed to the Hillside Cemetery controversy.

“We’re at this point because we didn’t think ahead too well. A lot of cities that are larger than ours have thought ahead and have ordinances and plans and ways to handle this,” she said.

Owners of individual grave sites at the cemetery are considering legal options to prevent the cemetery owner, J. Drew Lawton of Sierra Memorial Gardens, from developing the property.

Disinterment plans were suspended recently, and a representative for the cemetery said at the last city council meeting that discussion of development of the cemetery is premature.

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Bob Conrad
About Bob Conrad 1068 Articles
Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.