An unusual battle is brewing over a proposed townhome development in North County due to one resident's concern that a development project could disturb the final resting place of her ancestors and many others in Oceanside.
The Breeze Townhomes project would be built on a piece of land adjacent to the historic Oceanview Cemetery, where 22 of Shelley Hayes Caron’s ancestors are buried.
"We know that there are Civil War all the way to World War II and Korea veterans buried there. We have a mayor from Oceanside, we have council members, we have people that are related to famous authors," Hayes Caron said.
Hayes Caron is concerned there may also be unmarked graves beyond the cemetery's fence line.
She said her research has shown the cemetery’s boundaries have changed more than once since it opened in the late 1800s and believes the land where the Breeze Townhomes would be built, beyond the mausoleum, may have once been a potter’s field.
"When people couldn’t afford burial, they couldn’t afford a monument, but yet they still had to be buried, there was a designated area. It was usually in the back of the cemetery," Hayes Caron said.
Kristi Hawthorne, President of the Oceanside Historical Society, told NBC 7 in an email she has researched the cemetery for 25 years and has no reason to believe there are graves beyond the fence line.
"While there are headstones which are very close to the fence line (in particular to the south near the railroad right of way) I don’t believe there are any remains buried outside of the cemetery," Hawthorne's statemenet read in part.
Still, Hayes Caron said she wants the site surveyed with ground penetrating radar before any plans move forward.
"It would be very important at this point to have that type of examination of the cemetery to prove where the burials are," she said.
The developer, Oceanside-Nevada, LP, contracted with Helix Environmental Planning in El Cajon to conduct both title reviews of the property and cultural surveys.
They found "no significant impacts on cultural resources."
Oceanside-Nevada President Howard Jacobs told NBC 7 via email, "Just to be clear, we are not developing property that has EVER been a part of the cemetery; just next door to its most remote fence line."
However, Jacobs said he has agreed with the city to conduct a ground penetrating radar survey of the area in question, "with supervision of an archaeologist and a report of findings to the City prior to any grading or construction."
In addition, Jacobs told NBC 7 he would have an archaeologist and a tribal representative on site at all times during construction.
The Breeze Townhome Project was first submitted to the City of Oceanside in 2016, but city staff had concerns about the “intensity” of the original 90-unit design.
The new plans call for 34 units -- 32 attached and two detached. The project must still be approved by the Oceanside Planning Commission.