P&Z passes on crematory permit

By 
Robert Cox

Several Perryville residents attended last week’s meeting of the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission to address their concerns about a request for a special-use permit requested by Tim Brewer to add a new service on his business property.
Brewer, who owns Brewer Monument and Brewer Graphics with his wife, Angie Brewer, is seeking permission from the city to turn an existing, unused building on his property, located at 111 S. West St., into a crematorium by adding a cremation unit and a storage cooler.
“This is a fifth-generation business,” Angie said. “We’d like to have a six-generation business, but that’s not going to work if we can’t progress and follow what the trend of the industry is.”
After hearing from Brewer and the concerned residents, the commission declined to grant the permit, instead passing the decision on to the city’s Board of Aldermen, who will be able to hear firsthand from the Brewers and any concerned citizens during a public meeting to be held during the board’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at Perryville City Hall.
“There were a lot of people concerned about the effect the exhaust would have,” said Ron Courtois, chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission, “not only for the people living within 185 feet but for people in general. There were concerns about mercury or dioxins and they weren’t sure if it was safe for the community.”
Courtois said the commission’s decision came down to a lack of knowledge on the topic.
“We can’t approve something if we don’t know if it’s safe,” Courtois said. “The fact that there could be exhaust issues or malfunctions that could affect the citizens in general is what affected our decision. If there’s any issue, as far as health concerns, we don’t know what those are. We’re not trained in those types of situations. Until you know what it is, you can’t say yes.”
Brewer said that the initial idea of adding cremation services developed from speaking with customers.
“There have been a lot of requests from people at the funeral home and from people when he’s selling monuments,” Brewer said. “Over the last year or two, it’s gotten higher in terms of the number of people that will say, ‘Oh, do you provide that service?’ Or ‘I’m not going to do a monument because we’re going to be cremated.’
“If the growing trend is in cremation and we’re not doing that — you’re either growing or you’re shrinking.”
The residents who attended the meeting weren’t generally opposed to cremation services, but were more concerned with the location, citing worries over pollution — particularly with the number of schools and daycares located nearby — and property values in the largely residential area.
Tim Brewer said that safety shouldn’t be a concern.
“I wouldn’t be putting it here if I didn’t think it was completely safe,” Brewer said, pointing out that it would be his family and employees who would be in closest proximity. “I mean, because this unit is state of the art. It is completely self-contained. Nothing goes into the ground. The Several Perryville residents attended last week’s meeting of the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission to address their concerns about a request for a special-use permit requested by Tim Brewer to add a new service on his business property.
Brewer, who owns Brewer Monument and Brewer Graphics with his wife, Angie Brewer, is seeking permission from the city to turn an existing, unused building on his property, located at 111 S. West St., into a crematorium by adding a cremation unit and a storage cooler.
“This is a fifth-generation business,” Angie said. “We’d like to have a six-generation business, but that’s not going to work if we can’t progress and follow what the trend of the industry is.”
After hearing from Brewer and the concerned residents, the commission declined to grant the permit, instead passing the decision on to the city’s Board of Aldermen, who will be able to hear firsthand from the Brewers and any concerned citizens during a public meeting to be held during the board’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at Perryville City Hall.
“There were a lot of people concerned about the effect the exhaust would have,” said Ron Courtois, chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission, “not only for the people living within 185 feet but for people in general. There were concerns about mercury or dioxins and they weren’t sure if it was safe for the community.”
Courtois said the commission’s decision came down to a lack of knowledge on the topic.
“We can’t approve something if we don’t know if it’s safe,” Courtois said. “The fact that there could be exhaust issues or malfunctions that could affect the citizens in general is what affected our only emission port is the one designed at the top through the roof specific to that device, and anything that goes up the flue is going through the filters and it has an afterburner, so it holds it for another second or two longer and burns it again before it even goes out.”
The Brewers backed their claims with several environmental reports from the Environmental Protection Agency, and a letter from the designer of the unit they wish to install, Steve Looker, Ph.D., an environmental engineer from B&L Cremation Systems of Largo, Fla., recognized as the world’s largest independent manufacturer of cremation equipment with nearly 2,000 installations throughout the United States and over 50 countries
“Each model manufactured by our company has been personally designed and engineered by [myself] and tested by an independent testing laboratory against standards set forth by the federal government,” wrote Looker in the letter. “Our equipment’s emission levels are less than half the allowable standards to ensure environmental quality.”
According to information provided by B&L and backed by information from the EPA, their cremation units contribute less air pollution during operation than running a diesel truck for two hours or restaurants that might cook 100 hamburgers during that period. Those numbers put the level of emissions as lower than a standard residential fireplace in terms of particulates or volatile organic compounds, exceeding the mark only in nitrogen oxides at a level six times lower than the aforementioned diesel truck.
“Is it safe? We believe with all our heart it is, or we wouldn’t ask our family to help us run it,” said Angie Brewer. “Do we believe it’s going to help Perry County? The business is going out of Perry County right now and it’s going to continue at a greater rate.”
Perry County residents who choose cremation must pay transport fees to facilities outside the county, which can increase the cost by a substantial amount.
As for property values, Angie Brewer stressed that most residents would be unaware of anything different if the permit was granted.
“If we were putting in something very visible, I guess I could understand that viewpoint,” she said, “but if we didn’t have to go through a special use permit, no one would have known because it’s in a current building. There’s no noise, there’s no smell.”
The Brewers also outlined their plans for receiving remains, which would involve far less traffic and funeral-related vehicles than Ford & Young Funeral Home, located across the street from Brewer Monument.
“A van’s going to pull up into a garage, they’re going to shut the door, unload and then pull the van out,” said Angie Brewer. “That’s all the public would see and they’d have to be standing on our property to even see that.”
The Brewers said their plan to install the crematory on their existing property is the choice that makes the most sense for their business, since it would allow them to connect to city utilities — particularly natural gas — as well as use existing facilities and personnel rather than requiring the purchase of new land and construction of a new building, not to mention staff.
“We’d hate to go Plan B and place this in the county at three times the cost, said Angie Brewer. “We wouldn’t be able to offer the same service. You can’t just absorb that. As a business owner, it doesn’t work that way. We’d like to put in the most efficient system in a familiar area that has an efficient way to staff it and the security cameras and systems to take care of it.
“It just makes more sense.”
Angie Brewer said she hopes she and her husband are able to ease the concerns of residents at the meeting, at least in regard to safety, but said they understand that there might be other factors in play.
“It gets a little difficult for us to say, ‘What can we provide citizens that will put them at ease for things that aren’t databased?” she said. “I can’t tell somebody, ‘I want you to just be OK with having a crematory next door.’ If in their mind they’re not, they’re not. All the data I can provide shows it’s safe and it would help the Perryville economy.”

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