Housing Opportunities Commission To Appeal Decision Favoring Black Cemetery

The Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County will appeal a County Circuit Court’s decision to temporarily halt the sale of Westwood Tower Apartments in Bethesda.

The property includes a parking lot that sits atop the former Moses Cemetery. Members of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition filed suit to stop what they consider the desecration of the 200 buried remains of African Americans, many of them former slaves.

“The Commission intends to move forward with further legal proceedings that confirm the agency’s ability to execute a sale,”  Roy Priest, HOC chair, said in statement to MyMCM.

“It is not the decision the Commission had hoped for,” Priest said in the email. He noted that the injunction granted is only preliminary “and not conclusive as to the Housing Opportunities Commission’s ultimate ability to move forward with a sale of Westwood Towers.”

The proposed $51 million sale to Charger Ventures LLC would “not not only ensure the preservation of affordable units for the long-term – under a 99-year covenant – but to also help deepen and broaden HOC’s reach throughout Montgomery County, beyond the more than 15,000 households we serve each day, by providing critical resources for affordable housing investments where none previously existed,” Priest wrote.

He noted that there are 43,000 families throughout this region that are waiting for a home of their own.

On Oct. 25, Judge Karla Smith issued a 51-page ruling granting a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt the sale of the apartment complex. She ruled the land in question contains the former Moses Cemetery, and that the evidence suggests that the bodies remain beneath the paved area.

“The court has an obligation to ensure that such resting places must be respected,” according to Smith’s ruling.

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