The plan, which has been in the works for over a year now, has many in the community heated up. They believe the crematorium will be a nuisance that will lower property values, negatively impact the environment and harm the health and welfare of Bethel and surrounding communities.
Report and Photography by Paula Antolini
May 20, 2015 1:16PM EDT
Above photo: Residents at previous crematorium protest rally, including the owner of Skyzone, Edward Kim, on May 9, 2015, in Bethel CT.
Bethel Residents and Business Owners Outraged Over Proposed Crematorium; Protest Rally May 23, Public Hearing June 9
BETHEL RESIDENTS, BUSINESS OWNERS OUTRAGED OVER PROPOSED CREMATORIUM
Residents and business owners are outraged over a plan to add a stand-alone crematory in Clarke Business Park, near businesses and family neighborhoods. The plan, which has been in the works for over a year now, has many in the community heated up. They believe the crematorium will be a nuisance that will lower property values, negatively impact the environment and harm the health and welfare of Bethel and surrounding communities.
Clarke Business Park is a beautiful area where residents ride bikes and go-cart races are held. Abutting the property, Sympaug Pond is part of a watershed system that feeds into neighboring towns. Opponents fear that emissions from the crematorium will pollute the air, soil and water making the area unsafe. Issues raised at Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) hearings include concerns that toxins could potentially harm people working nearby, especially residents with small children and pets who cannot escape the toxins.
The crematory issue has been ongoing since early 2014 when B. Shawn McLoughlin applied for a zoning change to allow a crematorium in the park on the same property as his present business, Mono-crete Step Co. LLC, which was approved despite opposition. Controversy followed as a battle ensued between the Economic Development Committee (EDC), and members of the P&Z over who had authority to enforce park rules. A “Special Town Meeting” was held on December 29, 2014, to decide whether to extend the tenure of the EDC for ten years. There was poor public notification of this meeting that was held over the holidays when many people were unaware it was happening. The vote was 28-26 against extending the tenure.
The first application was withdrawn due to violations at the current business, including the lack of a Certificate of Occupancy for the past 15 years and problems with site plan modifications not in compliance with the original plan. The applicant then submitted a new crematorium building and special use permit application discussed at the May 12 meeting, which was also found to have violations.
A request for a one-year moratorium on new crematory applications and a reversal of the zoning change to allow a crematory in the park was submitted by the adjacent business owner, Greg Marciano, and both were approved in a work session following the May 12 public hearing. The vote does not affect the present applications. During the work session, Chairwoman Rist said, “I made a mistake,” regarding her vote on the first zoning change.
Opponents at P&Z hearings have grown in numbers, filling the room to capacity and overflowing into the hallway. Nobody at the meeting spoke in favor of the crematory other than the applicant’s lawyer. The group Bethel Matters, led by local community advocate Paula Antolini, includes support from Skyzone, CT Coining, GHM Garage, Soho Designs, and Holbrook Farms, an all-natural farm that will have to shut down if the crematory is approved.
A Protest Rally is planned for May 23, 2015 at 12:00 noon on the corner of Greenwood Avenue and Library Place.
A petition started by Antolini, available online at http://tinyurl.com/nocrematorium has gathered over 300 signatures. The petition is also available to sign in person at the protest rally.
Additional facts regarding the Bethel proposed crematorium can be found at http://betheladvocate.com/
THE NEXT P&Z PUBLIC HEARING: JUNE 9, 7:00 PM, in the DENIS RIORDAN ROOM D, CLIFFORD J. HURGIN MUNICIPAL CENTER, 1 SCHOOL ST, BETHEL CT.
UPDATE May 20, 2015, 7:40p.m.:
Public Hearing May 26 for the crematorium is continued to June 9 but keep checking back, it could be on June 23, or even later, stay tuned. A lot is happening.