Bethel P&Z discovers crematorium applicant did not have a Certificate of Occupancy for his present business, and other discrepancies.
Report by Paula Antolini
February 26, 2015 3:18PM EDT
Photo above: Mono-crete Step Co. in Clarke Business Park, at 12 Trowbridge Drive, Bethel, CT.
Crematorium Applicant Hits Snag with Application; Has Permit Problems
Mr. B. Shawn McLoughlin, owner of Mono-Crete Step Co., a concrete products business located in Bethel’s Clarke Business Park at 12 Trowbridge Drive, has run into some problems in the process of submitting an application for a crematorium business that he wants to add to the same property. The crematorium application was submitted in 2014 but then withdrawn in early 2015 when the town discovered that Mr. McLoughlin does not have a valid Certificate of Occupancy and the original approved site plan does not conform to some of the present conditions on property due to modifications that were made, for the business he has operated for the past 15 years.
Mr. Peter Olson, McLoughlin’s attorney, sent a letter dated February 18, 2015 to Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Pat Rist, requesting a final certificate of occupancy be issued by the Town of Bethel for the metal Monocrete-Step Co. building. Olson stated in the letter, “A temporary certificate of occupancy was issued, but two very minor changes delayed the issuance of a permanent certificate of occupancy.” Olson mentions one of the changes as, “…encroachments of pavement and gravel onto the adjoining property,” and continued “we have arranged to purchase a strip of land from that owner to resolve the issue.” Olson claims that a temporary certificate of occupancy was issued 15 years ago but, “The town’s file on this matter does not reflect the field review and approvals,” Olson’s letter stated, “…the Town’s current staff is at a disadvantage.”
Mr. McLoughlin’s permit request for the Mono-Crete Step Co. was presented by Land Use Director Steve Palmer at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting held on February 24, 2015.
The P&Z is presently reviewing the matter and have set a date for a public hearing on April 14, 2015.
Beth Cavagna from the Bethel Land Use and Inland Wetlands office said that until all these issues are resolved the crematorium building site application cannot move forward.
A Recap of What Has Occurred So Far Regarding the Crematorium Application:
McLoughlin submitted his application for a text amendment (change in park rules) to Clarke Business Park rules early in 2014, to request that the P&Z approve this text amendment to allow a crematorium in Clarke Business Park, previously not allowed under the present park rules at that time.
In 2014 and 2015 there were two public meetings held by the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) in which the majority of residents and Bethel business owners in attendance spoke out in opposition to the crematorium and they requested that the P&Z should not approve the text amendment. There was also written correspondence sent to the P&Z and read aloud at the meetings to reflect this same view. Very few individuals were for the crematorium. Despite that outcry, a text amendment was approved by the P&Z in a vote of 4 to 3, an amendment that would now allow crematoriums to be built not only in Clarke Business Park but in a certain other areas of the IP zone in eastern Bethel too. This paved the was for McLoughlin to move forward with his crematorium site building application.
The Bethel Economic Development Committee (EDC) was opposed to the crematorium and EDC Chairman Mike Boyle stated it was not in the best interest of Bethel and the Clarke Business Park, stating this at two public meetings the EDC held late last year to discuss the crematorium and other rules.
In December 2014, the EDC, who have been the stewards of the Clarke Business Park for the past 30 years without incident, revised the park rules, and among the changes was a rule that now would NOT allow a crematorium in the park. Many Clarke Business Park owners, that were previously against the crematorium, were now concerned about other rule changes that would affect their business, and this is where the entire situation became controversial.
Added to this, a few of the P&Z members, namely Chairman Pat Rist, Kitty Grant, and Bob Legnard, attended the two public EDC meetings and strongly spoke out about who was in charge of creating or revising park rules. They felt that they had set up the original rules and the EDC could not change them. Peter Olson, the attorney for the crematorium applicant, told the EDC they had no power regarding the park rules because they were an appointed committee and not an elected commission. This rules discrepancy issue did not come up in 30 years until the P&Z was not pleased the EDC was changing park rules to not be in favor of the crematorium, it appears.
Shortly after that, a Special Town Meeting was called on December 29,2014, on the Monday between the Christmas holiday and New Year’s holiday, to vote on the tenure of the EDC being extended ten years. Attendance at the meeting was low, possibly because many residents missed the notice buried layers deep in an agenda on the town’s website.
At the Dec. 29 Special Town Meeting, First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker made a point of clarifying exactly what residents would be voting on, which was the EDC ten-year tenure and not park rules. EDC Chairman Boyle stated there would be an additional meeting on January 15, 2015, to further discuss park rules. But despite all this, business owners concerned about park rules other than the crematorium-related rules, then voted not to extend the EDC tenure and thus remove rule-making power of the EDC permanently.
In a close vote of 28(no) to 26(yes), the EDC was now stripped of power to oversee the rules of the park. Read the full story here: https://betheladvocate.com/bethels-economic-development-committee-stripped-of-power/
Park rules then expired on January 15, 2015, and First Selectman Knickerbocker stated that the P&Z is now in charge of rules. See Knickerbocker video here: https://betheladvocate.com/bethels-economic-development-committee-stripped-of-power/
McLoughlin submitted his building plans to the town and a site walk took place by the P&Z on January 17, 2015. Read story and view video here: https://betheladvocate.com/proposed-crematorium-site-walk-took-place-in-frigid-temperatures-no-questions-from-the-public-allowed/
Subsequent to that, the Bethel Economic Outreach Committee was also disbanded by the Board of Selectman in a move First Selectman Knickerbocker called “housekeeping.” Read story here: https://betheladvocate.com/bethel-board-of-selectmen-disband-eight-committees/
The crematorium issue was on the P&Z agenda for a meeting scheduled for January 13, 2015, which was then “continued” (postponed) until January 27, 2015, and although the January 27 meeting was again continued to January 29, the crematorium issue was no longer on the agenda, because of the permit problems discovered during the ongoing approval process.
We will keep a close watch on the progression of this crematorium application. Presently McLoughlin has not re-submitted the crematorium application, while present permit and other issues are addressed, according to Beth Cavagna.
There is an ongoing petition opposing the crematorium, that was started 10 months ago, that 142 individuals have signed. Click below for more information and to sign the petition, and also view what other residents are saying about the crematorium: