Many businesses and residents are worried about health issues and property values in Bethel because of the proposed crematorium in Clarke Business Park. Will This Be the Beginning of the End for the Lovely Town of Bethel as We Know It?
Report by Paula Antolini
May 12, 2015 12:01PM EDT
Bethel’s Proposed Crematorium is Already Causing Many Businesses to Leave Clarke Business Park and Many Businesses and Residents Are Worried About Health Issues and Property Values
Will This Be the Beginning of the End for the Lovely Town of Bethel as We Know It?
Take a drive through Clarke Business Park in Bethel and you might be (sadly) surprised at what you find.
VIEW MANY REAL ESTATE FOR SALE SIGNS IN CLARKE BUSINESS PARK, throughout this article. All photos were shot in January 2015 and since then some of the businesses mentioned in the article are additional properties for sale. There were a tremendous amount of for sale signs added between last Spring (2014) when we viewed Clarke Business Park, and January 2015.
What is it going to take for the Bethel Planning & Zoning Commission to realize the proposed crematorium in Clarke Business Park in Bethel CT is a bad idea, a health hazard, a fire hazard, something that will lower everyone’s property values (studies show), and will deter business from coming to Bethel? Why isn’t the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) listening to the outcry?
Why is the P&Z even considering approving the applications from B. Shawn McLoughlin, owner of Mono-crete Step Co. LLC, who wants to build a 5,000sf building on this same property, to use as a crematorium, when there are violations galore in the present building site plan he submitted, numerous land use and environmental issues, and so much opposition from business owners and residents? Good question.
The proposed crematorium has already caused numerous business owners in Clarke Business Park to put their properties up for sale, even one owner who just purchased the property a few weeks ago, is now selling, because of the proposed crematorium, which he did not know about before purchase. Another business owner put four of his properties up for sale when the park rules were changed last year by the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) to allow a crematorium in the park. A crematorium was previously NOT allowed in the original park rules. Other long-time Bethel business owners are very worried about the toxic emissions from the proposed crematorium, the effect on the pollution of their land and water, and a negative effect on property values. Yet another business owner hired a lawyer to try and get the P&Z to approve a crematorium moratorium and also approve a text amendment (park rules change) to NOT allow a crematorium in Clarke Business Park or anywhere in the IP zone in Bethel CT. Read their stories below.
John Holbrook, owner of Holbrook Farm, a family-owned business, farming for 40 years, is one of the business owners who is very worried about the proposed crematorium. He has attended many P&Z Public Hearings over the course of this crematorium issue and has voiced his concerns. He told the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) that he would not be able to do his natural farming any longer if pollution of his water sources and contamination of his soil or crops occurs because of the proposed crematorium.
Holbrook Farm is on the east side of the Sympaug Pond, a large body of water lining his property, directly across from the proposed crematorium location to the west, Sympaug Pond being directly behind the crematorium applicant’s property. Water is one of the main locations of pollution from crematory emissions, studies show, where the mercury vapors emitted from the stacks of the retorts (ovens) produce toxins that land on water, soil and plants, turning into the deadly methyl-mercury that causes all sorts of ailments and even death, in humans and animals.
Residents do not want this beloved farm to be harmed, and they fear for their own health and safety, living near the business park, working there, or using the park to take walks with family including walking their dogs or exercising. They also worry about health of the other workers in the park and residents living near the park or anywhere in Bethel. This is because air and water travel far distances and can even pollute neighboring communities. Studies also show property values are negatively affected in towns with a crematorium. See: https://no2crematory.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/pennstatestudy-crematory-property-values2010.pdf
Johnny Choi, owner of Soho Designs in Clarke Business Park, put his property up for sale as soon as the first text amendment change was approved by the P&Z in 2014. He stated this was the reason why he was selling. He is strongly opposed to the crematorium and he has also put 3 other properties up for sale too, totaling a loss of $41,000 in revenue for the town.
The owners of Skyzone, Edward Kim and Walter Kim, a popular trampoline business for children and adults in Clarke Business Park, are opposed to the crematorium and attended a Protest Rally last Saturday, May 9, to show support.
Mitch and Wendy Gross, owners of GHM Garage, an antique and classic cars company, had just purchased their property across the street from the proposed crematorium site, but only learned about the crematorium after they purchased. They were going to invest $100,000 into the property they said, but have changed plans and are going to sell the property instead, if the crematorium is approved. They also attend the public hearings and are strongly opposed to the crematorium.
Greg Maricano, owner of Connecticut Coining (CT Coining) located right next door to the proposed crematorium location (45 feet from his property line) at 10 Trowbridge Drive, hired attorney Neil Marcus to request a crematorium moratorium approval from the P&Z and also a text amendment approval to NOT allow a crematorium in Clarke Business Park or anywhere in the IP Zone in Bethel CT. Those public hearings already took place in the last weeks and the hearing was closed despite opposition. The decision is now pending with the P&Z. No word on when that decision will be made. (Bethel Advocate will update you when more information is received.)
Attorney Marcus discovered many violations with the crematorium applicant’s building site plans, some that even went against the P&Z’s own regulations, he told the P&Z at the public hearing.
Marcus also discovered a residence that is within the required minimum distance of 1,000 feet, and asked the attorney for the applicant, Peter Olsen, to give him a confirmation of the exact distance.
There are many other issues. Marcus said in all his years as an attorney, he had never heard of only considering “PART” of a building structure when measuring required distances to other structures in the regulations, or saying exactly what the business structure is as a whole, regarding what activities take place in only “PART” of the building, as the crematorium applicant McLoughlin’s attorney Peter Olsen was claiming in his testimony to the P&Z.
Olsen also stated they had NO plans to submit the required application for SAFETY APPROVALS to the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and one from the Department of Public Health (DPH) unless the P&Z approved their building site permit and crematorium permit FIRST. Olsen said “if you want to risk it” to the P&Z. Why would any town commission want to “risk” safety approvals and put the residents health and safety in jeopardy? Isn’t this a bit backwards?
A clarification from the Bethel Department of Health (BDH) went unanswered after three visits to their office in person, trying to get an answer from Director Laura Vasile. Bethel Advocate wants to know where the Bethel Health Department stands on this issue and what their actions would be, if any, if the P&Z goes ahead and approves the crematorium building site plan permit and a permit to use the structure as a crematorium WITHOUT first making sure the DEEP and DPH safety applications are approve beforehand. Simple question, so why is the BDH not answering us?
The Bethel Land Use Office has many concerns about the proposed crematorium building site plans. Bethel Cavagna, assistant to the Director of Land Use Steve Palmer, spoke at the P&Z crematorium public hearings, and voiced her concern, and said via telephone interview with Bethel Advocate today, “I wanted to bring attention to the actual fill that was taking place on the property, pertaining to the crevice or gorge that was there because of similar geological stone that is found in that area called limestone, and the associated flora and fauna.” Cavagna continued, “My concerns are with the actual gorge area that is going to be filled. What is the make up of that rock, is it limestone? If it is limestone, there is flora and fauna associated with limestone that is on the endangered species list.”
The Economic Development Committee (EDC) was opposed to the crematorium from the start, as Chairman Mike Boyle said then, and has stated again in recent letters to the P&Z recently.
The Director of Economic Development Janice Chrzescijanek, was also opposed to the crematorium, and has also written a letters to the P&Z.
Boyle and Chrzescijanek have attended some of the recent P&Z public hearings too, in opposition.
Other Bethel business owners have signed the petition and are in support of the opposition to the crematorium: Erin Volpintesta, owner of Spark Arts, Marie MacInnis, owner of ChezShay, Kim Ramsey, owner of Toy Room, and Carmen Rivera, owner of The Square Creamery, Nancy Metcalf, owner of Starry Sky Studios.
Add this to the growing list of other businesses and residents too, who oppose the crematorium completely, and we have to ask why the P&Z is not hearing the outcry. At TWO public hearings the P&Z was asked to talk to local realtors and get their input about what impact the crematorium would have on property values and sales. Finally P&Z member John Lennon said, “We don’t HAVE to talk to realtors.” He was misinterpreting the request to just talk to realtors, and began asking Land Use Director how much an APPRAISAL would cost, and Palmer said about $3,000. We did not ask for an appraisal, we just want input from realtors on the future impact of a crematorium in Bethel. Not a lot to ask, it could be done via telephone, and an important feedback to investigate. A vote was taken and the P&Z voted to not do the appraisal. (???…we wanted a discussion with realtors not an appraisal!)
We have noticed that two P&Z members are more reasonable when it comes to listening to resident and business owners’ requests and concerns, and those P&Z members are Louis Valenti and Donald Brown. They advised other P&Z members to discuss real estate values impact with realtors but when a vote was taken they were in the minority.
Recent issues with a possible crematorium coming to this park have caused at least one deal to fall through already. According to a News Times article entitled, “”Expired Rules Change Business Park Outlook” by Dirk Perrefort, Bethel’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) Chairman Mike Boyle said this was the exact case. Perrefort writes, “He [Boyle] added that a crematorium is not a good use for the park, saying negotiations with a company interested in building a 25,000-square-foot warehouse in the park stopped when the crematorium use was approved.” (This refers to when the text amendment was approved by the P&Z, which changed the park rules to allow a crematorium in certain parts of Bethel. There is still a second phase, which is happening right now, where the applicant has applied for a site/building permit and also a permit to use the building as a crematorium.)
There is a trickle down effect of present businesses moving out of Clarke Business Park, or other businesses choosing to not relocate there once they hear about the crematorium, and that is, that Bethel real estate values in a town that has a crematorium will also be negatively effected.
See a sample real estate study here entitled, “Directional heterogeneity of environmental disamenities: the impact of crematory operations on adjacent residential values” by Mark D. Agee, Thomas D. Crocker, Department of Economics, Pennsylvania State University, Altoona, PA 16601, USA, Department of Economics and Finance, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA, first published on June 9, 2010: https://no2crematory.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/pennstatestudy-crematory-property-values2010.pdf
The study states, “Our data consists of all 372 single family home transactions in the city of Rawlins, Wyoming, between January 2004 and March 2006.” and “Our data spans 27 months of house sales: 7 months before, and 20 months after the startup of crematory operations. Results indicate that proximity, measured both in terms of direction and distance from the crematory, imparts a statistically significant negative impact on average house sale prices.” Visit this website (see number 12) to see more fact about this study and also volumes of other information about the dangers of crematorium emissions: https://no2crematory.wordpress.com/the-toxic-truth-data/ This is compiled information from the Community Awareness Network whose aim it is to get federal and state laws changed or added to protect us from crematorium emissions.
Are you comfortable that so many properties are for sale or lease in one of our main business parks? Bethel residents should be extremely concerned there are so many properties suddenly up for sale and let the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) know that you do not want a crematorium in Bethel.
As you can see, it is necessary for residents and business owners to attend tonight’s P&Z Public Hearing to let your voices be heard loud and clear, that a crematorium is not in the best interest of the Town of Bethel and its residents and business owners.
Public Hearing is Tuesday, May 12, 2015, at
7:00 p.m. in the Denis Riordan Room D,
Clifford J. Hurgin Municipal Center, 1 School Street, Bethel CT.
There are 220 signatures on the online petition opposing the Bethel CT proposed crematorium in Clarke Business Park, and more signatures on paper petitions circulated in person.
Read and sign petition here:
I photographed some of the properties for sale or lease in Clarke Business Park, and also a few on Grassy Plain Street right near the entrance to the park too. Most of the properties in the park are under Advantage Realty. They have very large signs, you can’t miss them.
More photos below show real estate signs for property for sale right or lease outside Clarke Business Park, in close proximity to the entrance on Grassy Plain Street: