Commission to discuss options for crematorium

By The Mercury

The crematorium issue, dormant since a local business dropped plans to seek a license for one last year, will resurface at Tuesday’s City Commission work session.

Commissioners will review four alternatives offered by the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board during their 5 p.m. meeting at City Hall. The alternatives range from doing nothing to creating a partnership that would be tasked with constructing a crematorium in Sunset Cemetery.

The issue arose last year when owners of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home explored obtaining a building permit to construct a crematorium adjacent to the firm’s site on Poyntz Avenue. That exploration ended when residents of the area objected, citing concerns about the emission of mercury — often present in dental amalgam — as a byproduct of the cremation process. There are those who believe that mercury emissions can have an adverse effect on public health, particularly with respect to young and unborn children.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate emissions from crematoriums, but the concerns expressed here last year were strong enough to cause the funeral home to withdraw its application. Even so, the growing popularity of cremation prompted the planning board to suggest that the city look at options for dealing with the question on a long-term basis. At present, there are no cremation facilities within the Manhattan area.

The four options the commission is expected to look at are:

1. Maintain the status quo, or amend city ordinances to allow crematoriums as an accessory use of mortuaries.

2. Regulate crematoriums separately from mortuaries and funeral homes. This approach would require identifying zoning areas where crematory facilities would be permitted.

3. Create a conditional use process for crematoriums.

4. Create a partnership to construct a crematorium in Sunset Cemetery. Pursuing that option would necessitate the city annexing the cemetery into the city limits and amending the zoning regulations to create a cemetery zone that permitted crematoriums. Theoretically, a second option would involve doing the same thing at the Kansas Veterans Cemetery.

In a memo provided to commissioners, senior planner Steve Zilkie said city officials have not approached local funeral homes to determine whether they would be open to consideration of operating a crematorium in a city-owned cemetery. Zilkie noted that the Kansas Veterans Cemetery has not been approached, either.

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