The owner of Country haven Funeral Home in Corner Brook is now concerned his plan to build a crematorium on the Country Road property may be in jeopardy.
Despite the fact City of Corner Brook staff had recommended council approve a permit for the crematorium, the city’s community development and planning committee recommended council deny Country Haven’s application.
When the application was brought forth at this past Monday’s public council meeting, there was a 3-3 tie vote on the proposed motion.
Mayor Charles Pender did not vote, citing he was in a conflict of interest because he lives in close proximity to the funeral home.
Councillors Tony Buckle, Josh Carey and Mary Ann Murphy voted in favour of denying the permit, while Deputy Mayor Bernd Staeben and councilors Keith Cormier and Linda Chaisson voted against the motion to deny it.
The crematorium plan was publicly advertised and no objections were received.
The city circulated 150 letters to homes within the immediate neighborhood. While 11 per cent of the responses received were against the idea, three per cent were in favour of it and 86 per cent of the households contacted never bothered to respond.
“That tells me a lot of people are not all that concerned about it and are telling us to go for it,” Parsons said.
Council also considered an engineering report from the developer regarding emissions from the cremation unit Country Haven plans to use. While there are no standards specific to crematorium emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial government told the city the anticipated emissions from this crematorium would be far below any of the province’s associated ambient air quality standards.
“The unit we’re looking at is not a low-class unit and there’s more damage being done to the environment by woodstoves and barbecues,” claimed Parsons.
Chaisson said her vote was based on the information provided, especially the results of the neighborhood survey.
“If there was a big uproar over this, I would have expected that 86 per cent number of people who don’t seem to care to be a lot lower,” she said.
A crematorium is considered a discretionary use for the area the funeral home is in.
“We would never put something over there that would cause all kinds of heartache for the people living there,” added Chaisson.
Buckle said he voted against the crematorium because some uncertainty still remains in his mind about the emissions issue.
“I needed a little bit more information before I could support it,” he said. “The government says it has no guidelines for emissions from a crematorium. I don’t think I would want one in my neighborhood unless I knew more about it.”
Cormier noted there are crematoriums in residential neighborhoods in St. John’s and in central Newfoundland. In fact, there is actually a pet crematorium in a residential neighborhood of the Curling area of Corner Brook.
Cormier also questioned whether the mayor was really in a conflict of interest, noting Pender’s home was not one of the ones to receive a notice from the city.
“I think the mayor should be voting on this,” he said.
Pender, who said his house is about 300 metres from the funeral home, said the issue may or may not affect his own property value, but felt casting a vote could still be perceived by some as having a potential influence on the outcome.
“I felt it was best to stay out of it, remain neutral and allow the council to decide on the matter,” he said in an emailed response to a request for an interview.
Country Haven currently uses a crematorium located in a residential area of Stephenville. Parsons said it just make good business sense to have one on their 2.5-acre lot in Corner Brook.
“I’m not upset about this and will wait to see what council does, but it would be crazy to have to put it out in the industrial park somewhere,” he said.
Because the council vote resulted in a tie, it will be brought back to the next public council meeting in August for further discussion and another vote.
If there is another tied vote, the motion will be considered defeated.
Oddly enough, because the original motion was to deny the permit, defeating the motion via a tie would mean council would likely have to approve it.