Skip to the content
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Home / Planning / Communities / Downcounty Planning / Westbard / Westbard Cemetery Chronology

Westbard Cemetery Chronology


Chronology Resources Frequently Asked Questions

Westbard Cemetery Chronology

  • February 7, 2022
    Parks Director Mike Riley responds to a request from County Executive Elrich for mediation with BACC. For the reasons stated in his January 7 email, Director Riley declines to participate. Director Riley reiterates that the Parks Department will not convey Parcel 177 to another party but plans to memorialize the cemetery as part of the Willett Branch Greenway project once the necessary properties, including Parcel 175, have been acquired through purchase or dedication. View the Willett Branch Greenway Project website.
  • January 4, 2022
    County Executive Elrich requests the Parks Department’s participation in a meeting to be led by a new mediator selected solely by BACC. Director Riley declines to attend unless all the relevant parties, including HOC, are in attendance. In his response, Director Riley reiterates the Parks Department’s commitment to the memorialization of the Moses Cemetery as part of the Willett Branch Greenway project. View the email from Director Riley.
  • September 14, 2020
  • August 10, 2020
    The Descendants of the Morningstar Tabernacle Number 88 Lodge of the Order of Moses, which has historical ties with Moses Cemetery, sends a letter to the BACC disagreeing “with the narrative being put forth by the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition (BACC) regarding the Moses Cemetery on River Road in Bethesda,” and stating that MBC has provided no documentation for any church members being buried there. The letter strongly disputes several of the BACC’s assertions concerning the history of the cemetery. View the letter from the Morningstar Tabernacle.
  • July 23, 2020
    The Planning Board approves a condition for the Westbard Self Storage Site Plan Amendment. The approved language for the condition includes:
  • July 23, 2020
    The Planning Board reviews the Westbard Self Storage Site Plan Amendment. The applicant, Westbard Self Storage, must come back to the Planning Board for an amendment for their approved Site Plan for a technical correction. This is to correct the front and rear setbacks to adhere to the requirements of the zone. There will also be confirmation of the Parcel 1 dedication area to Montgomery Parks as a portion of the Willet Branch Greenway, as approved in the Westbard Sector Plan. View the July 23 Planning Board staff report and attachments, including archeological reports.
  • February 11, 2020
    County Executive Elrich hosts a second meeting with Macedonia Baptist Church (MBC), the Parks Department, and the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC). The meeting was again facilitated by Reverend Hagler. MBC and its attorney demand conveyance of Parcels 177 and 175 to MBC. Parks Director Mike Riley states again that the Parks Department will not convey Parcel 177 to MBC.
  • November 20, 2019
    County Executive Marc Elrich hosts a meeting with representatives from Macedonia Baptist Church, BACC, and the Parks Department. The Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC), which owns Parcel 175, was excluded from this meeting at the last minute at the request of Macedonia Baptist Church, but Parks Director Mike Riley attended. The meeting was facilitated by Reverend Graylan Hagler of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ. The Parks Department explained its role in conducting cemetery studies on both Parcels 177 and 175 and memorializing the cemetery as part of the Willett Branch Greenway project. Macedonia Baptist Church and its attorney stated that the parcels must be conveyed to the church. At the meeting, Parks Director Mike Riley explained that Montgomery Parks would not convey the property to another entity both because memorialization of the cemetery is within its mandate and because Parcel 177 is essential to the future Willett Branch Greenway project approved by the County Council as part of the Westbard master plan. He also reiterates that Montgomery Parks will engage all stakeholders, including MBC, in memorialization of the cemetery. Although HOC is not present, in response to questions asked by the County Executive in advance of the meeting, HOC also states that it will not convey Parcel 175 to another party. See the email from Director Riley to the County Executive. View the email from Director Riley and from the Housing Opportunities Commission.
  • October 9, 2019
    Phased Final Forest Conservation Plan approval for Sheeting and Shoring states that the Westbard Self Storage applicant must hire a professional archeologist qualified to recognize human remains and funerary objects to monitor the drilling work associated with the tiebacks in the northwest corner of the building foundation, which is closest to the cemetery. The approval sets forth notification procedures if human remains or funerary objects are found and further requires reporting of their inspections. As of July 2020, the archeologist has filed four reports covering May through July 2020, which indicate that no human remains, funerary artifacts, grave shaft features, or cultural features associated with the River Road Moses Cemetery have been observed during monitoring.
  • February 28, 2019
    Bethesda African Cemetary Coalition (BACC), a group led by Marsha Coleman-Adebayo and Reverend Adebayo, cancels a scheduled March 4, 2019, meeting with the Parks Department.
  • September 19, 2018
    Local historian, David Rotenstein, issues a report including research and documentation necessary to initiate proceedings to list the River Road Moses Cemetery in the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation. However, no nomination for historic designation is filed by the community. View the David Rotenstein Moses Cemetery report and MIHP form.
  • June 18, 2018
    Regency submitted a new site plan application on June 18, 2018 and it does not include the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) property nor the land associated with the cemetery. There are no current regulatory applications for changes to Parcel 175 – the HOC parcel that was historically associated with the cemetery.
  • May 8, 2018
    Reverend Segun Adebayo sends an email thanking Director Riley after the April 24, 2018, meeting. View the email from Reverend Adebayo.
  • April 24, 2018
    At the request of Macedonia Baptist Church (MBC) Pastor Reverend Segun Adebayo, Parks Director Mike Riley hosts Reverend Adebayo and Marsha Coleman Adebayo and representatives from Showing Up for Racial Justice MoCo (SURJ), at the Parks Department Headquarters in Silver Spring. During the meeting, MBC expressed its belief that the church should be given both cemetery parcels (Parcel 175 owned by the Housing Opportunities Commission, and Parcel 177 owned by Montgomery Parks). Montgomery Parks describes its plans for creation of the Willett Branch Greenway, as envisioned in the Westbard Sector Plan, and how Parcels 177 and 175 would be memorialized as a part of that project in collaboration with the descendant community after appropriate cemetery studies are completed. View the letter from Reverend Adebayo.
  • January 31, 2018
    Regency Centers hosts a community meeting to discuss its new plans for the Westwood Shopping Center in Westbard.
  • January 18, 2018
    The Planning Department sends a letter to the attorney for Regency Centers acknowledging the receipt of the request to withdraw the previously submitted sketch plan.
  • January 16, 2018
    Property owner Regency Centers notifies the Planning Department in a letter that they have decided to abandon the sketch plan accepted on July 11, 2016. The sketch plan showed the construction of a mixed-use development following the vision of the approved and adopted Westbard Sector Plan.
  • January 12, 2018
    The Planning Board concurrently approved Westbard Self-Storage Site Plan No. 820170110 (MCPB No. 17-123) by resolution dated January 12, 2018 for a 50-foot-tall Self-Storage building. The Site Plan approval included the development standards and addressed details of the building architecture, landscaping, and other amenities such as the Sector-Planned Outlet Road shared-use path along the northern edge of the Site (which includes native landscape species, benches, historical display boards and lighting). The building is situated on the Site to preserve the Stream Buffer and future Willett Branch Greenway to the west and the Outlet Road shared-use path to the north.
  • September 20, 2017
    The mediator from the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County sends an email to the Planning Department, notifying staff that an agreement about the date and time of the next mediation session has not been reached and the mediation has been canceled.
  • June 12, 2017
    The second mediation session is held at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.
  • May 30, 2017
    Representatives of the Planning Department and other stakeholders attend the first mediation session, which is held at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.
  • May 9, 2017
    The attorney for Regency Centers responds to Mr. Leggett’s letter and agrees to delay the archeological study and participate in mediation as long as the mediation proceeds expeditiously.
  • May 2, 2017
    County Executive Isiah Leggett sends a letter to the property owners (Regency Centers) asking them to delay commencement of the archaeological study so that all stakeholders can meet and mediate. View the letter.
  • April 26, 2017
    A development application for a self-storage facility located at 5204 River Road is submitted, and the Planning Board approves the application on December 14, 2017. As a part of this application, the applicant is required to convey Parcel 177 – one of the two cemetery parcels – to Montgomery Parks. The applicant conveys the property by deed on February 27, 2019.
  • April 6, 2017
    Division Chief, Robert Kronenberg, who oversaw the Westbard Sector Plan, provides a scheduled update to the Planning Board on the progress of the cemetery delineation. Watch video.
  • March 24, 2017
    Gwen Wright responds to Mr. Leggett and Mr. Berliner’s letter. Wright’s letter makes it clear that the Planning Board cannot take part in mediation because of the need to maintain its impartiality in deciding the Westbard regulatory case, but states that Planning staff would be available to participate. View the letter.
  • March 16, 2017
    Casey Anderson receives a letter from County Executive Ike Leggett and County Council President Roger Berliner. The letter expresses confidence in the Planning Department, but proposes a mediation session to bring the parties together. View the letter.
  • March 8, 2017
    Gwen Wright receives the following email from Dr. Rachel Watkins after seeking to confirm the meeting on March 9. View email.
  • March 8, 2017
    Gwen Wright sends the following email to the property owner. Wright also sent a copy of this message to Dr. Watkins, Dr. Blakey and Ms. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. View email.
  • February 27, 2017
    Gwen Wright responds to Dr. Watkins’ third scope of work and proposed dates for meetings to discuss the proposal further on March 2 or March 6, 2017.
  • February 23, 2017
    The Planning Board holds a public hearing on Equity One’s Sketch Plan for the Westbard Shopping Center project. At the request of the Planning Department, the applicant “hatched out” the parcels around the presumed cemetery parcel so that this area would not be considered for action. Significant public testimony focuses on the need to delineate and protect the cemetery as soon as possible. The Board states that they want to get the archaeological work done within two months and that the applicant should come back to the Board with this information. View the Staff Report from the Planning Board’s February 23 Public Hearing. View the staff report.
  • February 17, 2017
    Gwen Wright receives Dr. Watkins’ third scope of work.
  • February 12, 2017
    Macedonia Baptist Church holds its first protest at the cemetery site.
  • February 10, 2017
    Gwen Wright responds to Dr. Watkins’ second scope of work.
  • February 10, 2017
    Gwen Wright receives Dr. Watkins’ second scope of work.
  • February 3, 2017
    Gwen Wright responds to Dr. Watkins’ first scope of work.
  • January 25, 2017
    Gwen Wright is contacted by The Washington Post because the church had reached out to Bill Turque about their concerns over the cemetery.
  • January 24, 2017
    Gwen Wright receives a first scope of work from Dr. Rachel Watkins that was broader than expected and did not include an upper limit on compensation.
  • January 23, 2017
    The property owner forwards a proposal from the Ottery Group to the Planning Department.
  • January 11, 2017
    Fourth Willett Branch Stakeholders Meeting is held. Gwen Wright and the Westbard team meets two anthropologists, Dr. Rachel Watkins of American University and Dr. Michael Blakey of the College of William and Mary at a stakeholders meeting arranged by the Planning Department. At this meeting, Gwen Wright proposes the idea of hiring Dr. Watkins and Dr. Blakey as a Peer Review group. This idea is agreed upon by the church representatives and the property owner. The Planning Department says it will pay the cost of the Peer Review, while the property owner would pay for the archaeological work. The church representatives express a preference for the Ottery Group of Kensington, MD as the firm to do the archaeological work. The property owner agrees to reach out to the Ottery Group, if the church representatives could assist with discussing the timing of the study with the Ottery Group.
  • December 7, 2016
    Third Willett Branch Stakeholders Meeting is held. This is the first meeting attended by representatives of the Macedonia Baptist Church. The property owner submits the first proposal for an archaeological investigation of the cemetery site. It is from the cultural resources management firm Gray & Pape and dated December 6, 2016. At this stakeholders meeting arranged by the Planning Department, the church representatives first express concern about the archaeological process.
  • September 12, 2016
    Second Willett Branch Stakeholders Meeting is held.
  • August 31, 2016
    Sandra Youla and Parks Department Cultural Resources staff make multiple efforts to reach out to representatives of the Macedonia Baptist Church to get them involved in the stakeholder meetings. This continues through December 2016. View document.
  • August 2, 2016
    First Willett Branch Stakeholders Meeting is held and attended by representatives from Little Falls Watershed Alliance, Coordinating Committee for Friendship Heights, Save Westbard, the property owner and other interested residents and civic groups.
  • July 11, 2016
    Westwood Shopping Center Sketch Plan is filed by property owner Equity One (now Regency Centers). (
  • May 3, 2016
    County Council unanimously approves the Westbard Sector Plan and accompanying resolution.
  • February 2, 2016
    The County Council holds public hearings on the Westbard Sector Plan. Reverend Dr. Sterling King, testifying shortly before his retirement and replacement by Reverend Segun Adebayo, mentions the cemetery fifth in a list of five requests but does not express opposition to the Planning Board’s recommendations for the site. The letter notes that the church never owned the cemetery but says that if the property is redeveloped or disturbed in the future an archeological study should be performed and appropriate action taken to memorialize the burials and protect any remains. See the letter.
  • December 21, 2015
    Planning Board Draft of the Westbard Sector Plan and a transmittal letter with a link to the Plan Appendix are sent to the County Council. The plan has an expanded historic chapter, historic sidebars throughout and references to the cemetery. The Plan Appendix includes a detailed section on the cemetery and archaeological protocols, and ideas for future interpretation and stewardship.
  • December 3, 2015
    Planning Board work session is conducted on the restoration of the Willett Branch, the cemetery and related recommendations. Reverend Dr. Sterling King attends this work session and comes forward to offer comments – primarily about names of roads in the community that are historically linked to African-American families and about avoiding negative impacts to the church building. Go to 10:53:18 on the video to see the work session presentation.
  • September 26, 2015
    Planning and Parks Departments conduct additional research and reach out to the minister of the Macedonia Baptist Church, Reverend Dr. Sterling King and other members of the church. Staff actively work to draw church representatives into the planning process. Discussions include the history of the church and information on the cemetery. The Research concludes in December 2015.
  • September 24, 2015
    Planning Board holds public hearing on the Public Hearing Draft of the Westbard Sector Plan. No testimony was received about the cemetery.
  • September 17, 2015
    Planning Board tours the Westbard area in preparation for the upcoming public hearing on the draft of the Westbard Sector Plan.
  • September 15, 2015
    Sandra Youla provides the Westbard team and Gwen Wright with a detailed update on her research and investigation about the cemetery. She reported that the cemetery had been located in Tenleytown, was not directly associated with Macedonia Baptist Church and there were no records about the number of burials at the site.
  • September 13, 2015
    Sandra Youla provides the Westbard team and Gwen Wright with a detailed update on her research and investigation about the cemetery. She reported that the cemetery had been located in Tenleytown, was not directly associated with Macedonia Baptist Church and there were no records about the number of burials at the site.
  • July 1, 2015
    The Westbard Sector Plan Working Draft is presented to Planning Board. The cemetery is not mentioned. The Working Draft is approved for publication as the Public Hearing Draft.
  • February 16, 2015
    Youla briefs Planning Director Gwen Wright about the possibility that a cemetery was once located in the vicinity of the Willett Branch behind what is now Westwood Towers. A local business owner had mentioned the cemetery at a community meeting on the master plan organized by the Planning Department, and preliminary follow-up research by Planning staff seemed to confirm the business owner’s report, but many unanswered questions remained. Youla reached out to the Macedonia Baptist Church in March and April of 2015 to engage its representatives in discussions about the plan and to ask whether they were aware of a cemetery in the area but got no response.
  • January 15, 2015
    Planner Sandra Youla of the Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Office is assigned to the Westbard Sector Plan team so that a comprehensive history section can be written and included in the plan.
  • November 10, 2014
    Westbard Sector Plan Charrette – four days of intensive meetings with the community and public agencies are held at a site in Westbard with extensive opportunities for residents to offer comments on all aspects of the proposed plan. the Charrette ends on November 14, 2014.
  • October 30, 2014
    Westbard Sector Plan Scope of Work reviewed by Planning Board.
  • July 1, 2014
    Planning Department staff work on the Westbard Sector Plan begins.
  • May 1, 2014
    The Montgomery County Council adds the Westbard Sector Plan to the Planning Department’s FY 15 work program. The original plan for Westbard was the oldest in the county and had not been updated since 1982.


Approved and Adopted Westbard Sector Plan: go to page 75 (in the PDF viewer, not the actual numbers on the pages of the document).

Westbard Sector Plan Appendix: go to page 74 and pages 111-114 (in the PDF viewer, not the actual numbers on the pages of the document).

Frequently Asked Questions about the African-American Cemetery in Westbard

Expand All Accordion Content