Stow -- After months of discussion, City Council is still not prepared to vote on proposed legislation that would permit the construction and operation of crematoriums at Stow funeral homes.
After the continuation of a Dec. 10 public hearing on the issue Dec. 13, Council members voted 4-3 to have the ordinance tabled until the next regular Council meeting on Jan. 10. Ward 1 Councilman Matt Riehl, At-Large Councilman Brian D'Antonio and At-Large Councilman Mike Rasor cast the dissenting votes.
The next time the ordinance will be discussed will be at the Jan. 7 meeting of Council's Planning Committee.
Law Director Brian Reali noted that Council has 90 days from an ordinance's first reading to act. The 90-day deadline would be on Jan. 22, but the last meeting before then would be on Jan. 10.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Mary Bednar, Ward 3 Councilperson Brian Lowdermilk -- who made the motion-- and At-Large Councilman John Pribonic all said that delaying a vote would give Council more time to research into possible changes to the legislation that might satisfy the concerns of residents and the interests of businesses that could benefit from the amendment to the city's zoning code.
The legislation became an issue of controversy after being introduced to Council by representatives of Redmon Funeral Home who have said the business would like to install a crematory at its location on 3633 Darrow Road.
The city's only other funeral home is the Dunn-Quigley Funeral Home, located at 3333 Kent Road.
Bednar, who is the chair of the Planning Committee, said she's done her own investigation into the concerns of residents, which she said seem to predominantly center around reservations with how public health and property values could be impacted for those living near funeral homes where the crematoriums could be built.
"Character does count," said Bednar, referencing the Redmon family's reputation in the community, "but at the same time, we need to look at what's in front of us in black and white on paper."
Bednar said she'd like to find a solution that appeases everyone, but the answer on how to reach that is unclear.
In regulating mercury emissions, Bednar cited an instance from her research where a municipality could've voted to mandate that all tooth fillings (which contain mercury) be removed before cremation, but the residents turned that down because they thought it was "ghoulish."
She added that some requirements may mean attempting to regulate a business, which may not be legal.
Pribonic echoed Bednar's sentiments, noting that he, too, isn't comfortable making a decision yet and doesn't want to rush a vote.
"We're not looking at putting a crematory in next year," he said. "We don't know. It could be a year. It could be two. It could be five."
"We've had six months, but in my opinion, if it [construction of a crematorium] is not going to move forward in a short period of time, I'd like to look at some other things," he added. "Maybe nothing will change, but the point is, I think we owe that to our city."
Council's decision came after dozens of testimonies from both proponents and opponents of the legislation.
Mike Sekulich, president of Tallmadge Asphalt Paving Co., spoke to the Redmon family's character as a responsible business, calling the family's facility "immaculate."
Other residents said they support the crematorium so the business can be more competitive as other funeral homes across the country permit their own crematorium facilities.
Alice Marusiak, a resident against crematoriums at the Redmon Funeral Home because of its location in a residential area, shared the concerns of others who feared health and the environment could be adversely affected by the facilities.
"I'm opposed to the crematoriums because in my opinion, this will add to our air pollution," she said. "We should be finding ways to clean up our environment, not make it worse."
"We're not opposed to crematoriums in the city of Stow," said Jerry McIntire, a Darrow Road resident, "we're just against crematoriums in this residential area."
"This has been a long emotional process for all of us, but no more so for any of you than for those of us at Redmon Funeral Home," said Lou-Ann Redmon, adding that she encourages Council not to let emotions be a factor in their decision.
She noted how the Environmental Protection Agency issues crematory permits without regard for location, adding that the EPA and the Akron Regional Air Quality Management District is "on our side in this issue."
"If you vote 'no' tonight, you are voting without consideration of the standards put in place by the only regulatory bodies for us to follow," said Redmon.
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