Superior Court Judge DeWitt S. Hyde has temporarily deflated a Northeast man's hopes of halting townhouse development in the cemetery where his parents are buried by again denying the plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction to halt the project.
The man, Angelos Chakalakis, 39, filed suit against the trustees of Glenwood Cemetery, 2219 Lincoln Rd., NE., in May. He charged that they had violated the cemetery charter by negotiating to sell developer Allan Pollin four acres of cemetery land without first bringing the matter to a lot-owners' vote. Chakalakis also charged that the sale, without a lot-owners' vote, would cause irreparable damage to many lot-owners.
In his ruling issued June 15 and upheld July 7, Hyde found that the trustees had acted in accordance with the 1854 cemetery charter by holding a lot-owners' vote June 3, and that Chakalakis could not prove any loss, other than an emotional one, to himself and other lot-owners.
However, his request for a permanent injunction against the sale is still pending. A hearing on the request will be held within the next few months, said Stephen D. Keeffe, attorney for Chakalakis.
According to court records, Pollin, the son of Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin, has a $571,000 contract to purchase cemetery land which runs along Franklin Street NE and borders tombstones in the cemetery. no one is buried on the land in question.
The first $100,000 is to be paid in cash and the remainder over the next three years with an interest rate of 9 percent a year.
Harry L. Ryan Jr., attorney for Glenwood, confirmed the terms of the contract.
Court records show that Pollin already has shown the trustees a sketch of the proposed townhouse development. The homes would be separated from graves (some right up to the boundary lines) by a wire fence and shrubbery. A fence now enclosing the property would be lowered.
Chakalakis said he understands 50 townhouses are to be built on the land. Pollin, however, would not confirm the figure.
The property is adjacent to 25 acres of land sold for $3 million four months ago by Trinity College to Richard J. Donohoe and Gerard M. LaVey, who have proposed to construct 534 townhouses there.
Pollin's attorney, Austin P. Frum said that "Pollin has a contract to purchase the ground, but it hasn't been closed yet. It's not the court suit that's the hang-up. It's just some other things he has to get lined up before he can close the property. That's all we're willing to say."
The cemetery trustees have said the land is being sold to create a trust fund to maintain the grounds, which have fallen into disarray over the years because of a lack of money for upkeep.
Recently the cemetery has often been overgrown with weeds and grass, and stray dogs have been seen roaming in the area.
The trustees say there have not been enough donations and cemetery plot sales have been insufficient to raise enough money to keep up the property. Emery T. Steffey, 74, caretaker at the cemetery for 52 years, said he has four fulltime employes and a few parttime workers to tend about 65 acres. In recent years, he said, annual maintenance costs have averaged about $75,000 for the cemetery.
"I would say off hand that the last resort they have is selling that ground," he said. "And if they sell that ground and don't make it, I don't know what they'll do."
"My mother and father loved that area," said a distraught Chakalakis. "I love it too. I've already spent $3,000 of my own savings (on the suit)." Chakalakis is a Safeway employe.
He said he filed the suit on behalf of himself and other Glenwood lot owners.
"A lot of the lot owners are (suburban residents) in their 60s and 70s," he explained. "They said they're too old to get here."
Chakalakis, who lives just a few minutes walk from the cemetery, said he visits his family's graves weekly. Buried there are his parents, several uncles, aunts, and a niece killed in a plane crash a few years ago.
During his weekly visits he said he has become friendly with other lot-owners, such as Virginia Lederer of Hyattsville, Md.
Lederer, who has been maintaining her family's plot for 32 years, said she and many other lot owners had attended the trustees annual lot owners meeting June 3 to protest the development. The trustees had allowed them to vote on the proposed sale, she said, but not until most lot owners had already left the unusually long meeting.
Throughout the suit Chakalakis has held the interest of the community and the lot owners foremost in his actions, said Keeffe.
Keeffe said Chakalakis contends that the cemetery could survive without selling the property if the trustees appealed to the nearby religious and civic community and sold cemetery plots to people living in the area, most of whom are black.