NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY)– Dozens of grave sites are safe for now, after the property owner of Walden Pond Pet Cemetery told pet owners they had 90 days to dig up their pets before he develops that land.
The pet owners filed a lawsuit against the owner in April. Their attorney Gary Shipman says on Monday a judge entered a preliminary injunction restraining the owner from requiring that anyone move graves or prohibiting anyone from visiting until a decision is made.
From dogs, to cats, to monkeys, the Walden Pond Pet Cemetery marks the resting place for hundreds of pets. New Hanover County Planning and Zoning Director Chris O’Keefe says in 1990, commissioners approved a special use permit for Barbara and Jere Legwin to build and operate a pet cemetery.
“A special use permit runs with the property, so it gives you the right to the special use as long as you want to do it,” O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe says when the Legwin’s sold their property, the special use permit did not protect the cemetery.
“It doesn’t say how long you have to do it, so when you’re ready to stop that use you can stop,” O’Keefe said.
In April, pet owners were outraged when Coates notified them they had 90 days to dig up their pets.
“We feel bad for the people who have had their pets there, but there is nothing our ordinance can do to help them,” O’Keefe said.
Pet owners are suing Coates with a contract from the original owners.
Number 10 on the contract says, “Burial rights as herein set out are granted. No title or deed to real estate is transferred hereby.”
For now, those graves are safe, because Shipman says a preliminary injunction will restrain the owner for at least 12-18 months until a decision about the lawsuit is made.
We have called Ricky Coates several times to find out what he wants to do with the land, but our phone calls have not been returned.