Potential homebuyer shocked when dilapidated cemetery found on Dover property

DOVER, Fla. (WFLA) — A potential homebuyer was in shock when she checked out a vacant lot listed for sale in Dover.

The lot has a big for-sale sign and details, like “vacant lot” and a “$25 a month HOA fee” can be found in an ad on Zillow.com.

But, there was no warning for what this buyer found when walking the property: an old, dilapidated cemetery with 18 headstones.

She called 8 On Your Side, and we took a closer look. For starters, the subdivision is called Memory Lane. Neighbors know about the cemetery and say there has never been a house there. The real estate listing has been active for more than 600 days.

Realtor Tony Baroni said he’s not trying to hide anything and tells every potential buyer who contacts him about the cemetery. He provided a copy of a seller’s disclosure form that includes a handwritten notation: “Family/Confederate Cemetery.”

If a buyer had access to the Multiple Listing that agents use, they would see that, he said. He said there’s no chance someone could buy this land without knowing about the cemetery.

8 On Your Side found that this cemetery is historic. USF researchers say it is has a name, The Worth Cemetery. It’s named after Frederick Worth, a captain in the Confederate Army. We found that his son, Charles Worth, went on to be one of Hillsborough County’s first tax collectors. He was also a legislator and helped found the Florida State Fair.

There are also several people buried in the cemetery with the last name Lewis.

Neighbors all know about the cemetery and say that’s why there has never been a house on the lot, which is .79 acres. It’s the only lot in the upscale subdivision that is vacant.

“The lot’s been for sale forever,” said Greg Howell, who lives in the neighborhood. “But, most people that look at it to build on, and then when they, I think when they end up finding out about the cemetery, it ends up shunning them away a little bit.”

The house next door sold recently and that homeowner said she learned about the cemetery from a neighbor before she purchased.

“My boyfriend, who I live with, is from Key West and he lived next door to a cemetery over there, so it’s kind of a comfort to him, and he likes it. It doesn’t bother him at all so I said, “go over there, make friends,’ and happy ghosts are good neighbors.”

Warren Weathers, with the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s Office, said he doesn’t get questions about land with cemeteries very often. Weathers said it is legal to build on the property, but against state law to disturb the grave sites. Anyone who purchased the property would be responsible for maintaining The Worth Cemetery.

“That would take a special buyer,” Weathers said.

The real estate company representing the property said they’ve been researching since listing this property in August 2015, and they think the county is responsible for maintaining the cemetery.

Weathers said that’s not the case, because the property is privately owned. However, he said, the county could take over, if the property owner deeded that section to the county.

Baroni said the property is owned by Dave Preast. He said this property, along with a house next door, was owned by the same owner. But, the Preasts divorced. Baroni said the wife got the house, and the husband got the lot with the cemetery.

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