The grave of Judge John Heard.
The grave of Judge John Heard.

A long battle between descendants of a Confederate veteran and a resident who wants to build a house near a family cemetery has landed back in state court.
The Georgia Court of Appeals has returned a lawsuit between the two over the burial site to state court for a jury trial, said Preston Heard, a great-great grandson of Judge John Heard, a founding member of the Sandy Springs community.

The descendants are trying to take control of the cemetery away from Christopher Mills, who is not a member of the Heard family. However he owns the property because it was mistakenly sold at a tax auction.

Mills’ attorney did not return a phone call for comment for this article.

The parties are hopeful, however, that a solution can be worked out without going to trial, said Wright Mitchell, attorney for the family members.

Several years go Mills’ in-laws paid the back taxes on the 1-acre property on Heards Drive and they then later sold the property to Mills for $1. Mills wants to build a home on an undeveloped portion of the land. He has obtained an archaeological survey that determined there are no graves on the spot where he wants to build.

Mills applied for a building permit, which the city of Sandy Springs denied because the property contains a cemetery. Mills sued the city in 2012. His legal action and the resulting media coverage alerted members of the Heard family, who filed a motion to intervene.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Adams ruled against the descendants’ motion for summary judgment that would have given them control of the property, but agreed to let the Court of Appeals Review her decision. The higher court affirmed Adams’ decision.

Holly R. Price

Holly R. Price is a freelance writer based in metro Atlanta.