Toxic methyl mercury, hearses, and human remains could soon be approved to pollute our little town of Bethel in 10 days.
Report by Paula Antolini
Jan 3, 2015 5:00PM EDT
This may be the last chance for residents to stop a crematorium from coming to Bethel.
In only 10 days another public meeting will take place on Jan. 13, 2015, at the Bethel Municipal Building (see details below). This meeting will likely decide the fate of the proposed crematorium at the Clark Business Park. Although this has been ongoing for more than 8 months, it seems that the crematorium has been given a fast track for approval lately. Bethel residents, are you okay with this?
The announcement of this important meeting was also NOT easily found, and was buried in a print version of the Danbury News Times. It was also on Bethel town’s website but not under the “meetings” heading or on the “calendar” on the front page, or even in “announcements” but rather buried layers deep in the “forms and documents” section and most residents would miss this information easily. It begs the question, “Why”?
Here is a brief summary of the events leading to the upcoming meeting. More than 8 months ago, Mr. Shawn McLaughlin, owner of Mono-Crete Step, LLC, a concrete products company located in the Clarke Business Park, applied to get a crematorium approved in Bethel and hired an attorney to represent him at the public meetings. I personally witnessed meeting after meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) where the majority of the individuals present, and the majority of the correspondence presented, was overwhelmingly opposed to this crematorium. Even most of the business owners in the park were opposed to it at that time. Many complained they did not want hearses driving into the park each day and others sited other issues such as one park business owner saying he would relocate his business out of Clarke Business Park if a crematorium was allowed in the park. So why would the Planning and Zoning Commission, in a 4 to 3 margin, vote YES to approve a text amendment (rule change) that would pave the way for the crematorium? Good question! Who are these elected officials representing, the will of the residents or the applicant? (Those P&Z members voting yes were: Pat Rist, Bob Legnard, Kitty Grant, John Lennon).
After the text amendment (rule change) was approved by the P&Z, the Economic Development Commission (EDC) held two more meetings and invited public comment. Again McLaughlin’s lawyer tried to monopolize the meetings with his long rhetoric but was quickly told to keep to the topic at hand by the Chairman of the EDC, Mike Boyle. This is apparently where the controversy began between the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Economic Development Commission. The P&Z and the EDC members engaged in a power struggle over who was in control of making rules governing the business park. The EDC publicly stated a crematorium was not in the best interest of Bethel and its business park. Since the EDC has been the appointed stewards of the Clark Business Park for the past 30 years and charged with creating and enforcing the regulations governing the park, one would think that would be the end of the crematorium application.
What happened next seemed more like a lynching than a meeting. In a Special Town Meeting on the Monday (Dec. 29) between Christmas and New Year’s the EDC was disbanded by a vote of 28 to 26, 54 individuals at a meeting out of a Bethel population of 18,000+, yet our entire EDC was ousted by 28 individuals? How did this happen? This should have been a referendum.
First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker clarified earlier that the vote to be taken was to be on the extension of the EDC tenure ONLY and NOT on the rules. However, it was NOT mentioned that a NO vote would completely strip the power from the EDC and all rules of the park would expire on Jan 15, 2015, either in the notice or words at the meeting. So basically we have no one to oversee the park and no rules for the park starting Jan. 15, 2015. Now Knickerbocker said control falls back to the P&Z, the very commission that keeps approving the crematorium against popular opinion.
To be fair, the entire Board of Selectman voted at that meeting to extend the EDC tenure. The vote count favored of disbanding the EDC by two votes. In my opinion, most of the 28 individuals must have had unfair notification about the purpose of the meeting where the majority of residents were unaware of this Monday night meeting after a holiday. Is this how a democracy is supposed to work?
The day after the EDC was stripped of power, applicant McLaughlin quickly applied to the P&Z for a crematorium permit and a permit for a 5,000 square foot building to be constructed somewhere in the business park. One has to go to the tax assessor or the P&Z in town to find out the exact location. The public meeting is scheduled for January 13, 2015 at 7pm. See below for details.
I urge you to write letters and attend this meeting and give public comment. The health of your family and the quality of life in Bethel as well as the success of our business park of our precious town is at stake. If you do not make a point of participating you will soon see hearses delivering bodies perhaps on a daily basis. The only other crematoriums in Fairfield County are located many towns away. The applicant plans 3 ovens that can cremate 3 bodies each per day for a total of 9 per day, as stated by attorney Peter Olsen at one of the meetings. This could mean thousands of bodies per year. This not only poses a serious health risk due to the toxic by-products that result from mercury (which turns into deadly methyl mercury when landing on our soil or water) but studies show will negatively impact real estate values as well. There are aquifers all over Clarke Business Park, why is this being ignored too?
GET INVOLVED NOW. Please attend the meeting on Jan. 13 and sign the petition (below). This may be your last chance to voice your opinion to let officials know you are opposed to this crematorium.
“Planning & Zoning Commission / LEGAL NOTICE”
“Notice is hereby given that the Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a public meeting on Jan. 13, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. in the Denis J. Riordan Meeting Room D, 1 School Street Bethel CT to hear the application of B. Shawn McLaughlin for a site plan/ special permit to construct a 5000sf building, and a special permit for use as a crematory as required by section 4.3 (10a); 4.2 (B) (2) & (D) (1) of the zoning regulations. This property can be found in the Tax Assessor’s Office as map 11, block 23, and lot 250-20A.
At this hearing interested persons will be heard and written communications will be received. Maps are available for perusal in the Planning & Zoning Department, 1 School Street, Bethel Connecticut.
Dated this 30th day of December 2014 at Bethel, Connecticut.”
Signed by Pat Rist, Chairman of P&Z.
Here is the link to the Bethel website notice (buried deep) on the website (as above):
PLEASE SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION TO STOP THE CREMATORIUM: