RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond residents are raising concerns about a casino proposal for the Stratford Hills area of Richmond. A man who lives in the area says the land for the proposed casino is a historical burial site. Other neighbors gathered on Tuesday to protest Bally’s casino proposal.
The protestors gathered around 5 p.m. with signs opposing the casino. There have been concerns voiced about the casino’s potential impact on traffic and wildlife.
Bally’s released a statement ahead of proposed protests saying ““We listened to the community and, after solving for the traffic concerns raised, we are confident there will be no impact to adjacent neighborhoods, whatsoever. Bally’s has also conducted thorough environmental impact studies and is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of our site, including any wildlife and wetlands.”
Long before the Bally’s casino proposal, Jason Haase who owns property nearby began to study the genealogy of the area. He says the land in and around the proposed casino site was once home to a community of freed slaves.
Haase tells 8News the land was once owned by Robert Green and his father Samuel Green — free people who acquired the land.
He says the area tells a story of an old vestige of land that free slaves came from and buried their family members on. One woman told Haase in an interview that she attended funerals near the potential casino site as a child.
By studying historical records, deeds and interviews Haase says he’s uncovered eight cemeteries within a quarter mile radius. Remains from one nearby grave site called Pauper’s Cemetery were legally exhumed years ago but descendants of people buried there claim more graves are on-site.
As for the property Bally’s hopes to utilize, photographs provide evidence of a home site and approximately 7 structures on the land. It is believed the land also includes the Green Family Cemetery.
“When you stand at their gravesite it’s right on the edge of their land and look you can see multiple unmarked graves, so there’s big depressions in the earth,” Haase said. “If you snap a GPS coordinate and overlay the Bally’s site plan, the road goes right over it if not on top of it. “
Haase says he’s not necessarily opposed to a casino in the city but thinks Bally’s should do a professional archaeological study before building there.
Senior Project Manager for Bally’s Richmond Michael Monty says the company has reviewed a cemetery deed for a property north of the casino site.
“To be clear, the cemetery reference in this deed is not on our site,” Monty said. “Beyond this, we have seen some sketches drawn by hand, but we have not seen any valid sources that would indicate any graves on our site.”
Haase says that everyone has a responsibility to honor freed African Americans, their burials and extended community. “I would like for Bally’s to be keenly aware that there is a home site and potential graves,” Haase said. He wants to see an archeological site survey done with a professional genealogy or grave researcher
Monty’s statement says the company plans to address any information regarding cemetery sites.
The short statement ends with a promise to be a “good neighbor to the community” that will host the casino project.