Board asks city look into crematorium locations

By Burk Krohe

Members of the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board agreed Tuesday to forward a recommendation to the Manhattan City Commission to investigate locating a crematorium in one of the cemeteries near the airport.

The discussion was touched off last year by Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home’s zoning application for a crematorium at its location on Poyntz Avenue. The main concern from opponents was mercury emissions from incinerated dental amalgamations, which contain traces of the metal. Eventually, the funeral home withdrew its application, but the Board has continued to examine the issue.

The Board’s recommendation came over objections from members Mike Hill and Mike Kratochvil. Kratochvil said the Board should “leave it as is” or recommend that a crematorium not be located anywhere in the city. Hill said it was difficult for him to make a recommendation because there is limited research on the issue.

“I don’t want to base my decision on what might be fear,” Hill said.

Based on information city staff provided — which consisted mainly of a report on crematorium emissions by a city in Tennessee —  several board members felt a logical option would be to locate a crematorium in a cemetery.

City staff suggested Sunrise Cemetery, but board members were also supportive of Stephanie Rolley’s idea to locate it in the Kansas Veterans Cemetery. Rolley said that would be a more fitting location because of its distance from densely populated residential areas.

“If we want to look at it in a really fundamental way, we’re talking about putting incineration in a residential neighborhood,” Rolley said. “I don’t think that is sound land use planning.”

Linda Morse, board member, said it is unlikely the area around the cemetery will become residential. Other board members added that a cemetery would be a respectful place for a crematorium as opposed to an industrial park.

Gary Stith, board member, proposed a 500-foot setback from residential districts as well. Based on the research city staff provided, it is consistent with other communities that have regulated crematoriums.

Phil Anderson, board member, went along with the recommendation although he said he felt a crematorium didn’t pose a threat in residential areas.

“We’re pushing this off, out into a remote area so we can pretend it doesn’t exist,” Anderson said.

City staff will continue to look at the feasibility of locating a crematorium at the two identified cemeteries and necessary zoning changes to accommodate the 500-foot setback. The city will bring the issue the City Commission at future date.

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