Law director says Kent can't stop crematory

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Despite complaints from residents, there is nothing the city of Kent can do to stop a crematory from being installed at the Bissler & Sons Funeral Home, the city's law director has ruled.

But one of the neighbors has claimed the ruling was "one-sided" and biased toward the funeral home.

Last month, neighbors of the funeral home asked Kent City Council to have the city planning commission revisit the proposed expansion to the funeral home after the 11th District Court of Appeals handed down a ruling on the matter.

The ruling stated the crematory could be installed at the funeral home because the crematory is considered an accessory use to a funeral home. However, the ruling also strictly curtailed the amount Bissler could spend to expand his building, a non-conforming use under the zoning code.

Bissler had asked for the expansion so he could add office space and a garage. He planned to put the crematory in the existing garage.

Residents who spoke at a Jan. 21 meeting asked that the matter be returned to the planning commission because one of them was not notified of the original board of zoning appeals meeting and conflicting information had been given to the board of zoning appeals on the height of the smoke stack and whether EPA approval had been given. They had also objected to the crematory based on health issues and claimed the crematory would harm the value of their properties.

In his recommendation to council, however, Silver pointed out that many of the issues raised were addressed by the court system and those which were not raised in court could not be raised now.

He recommended that the city "follow the court's orders" by allowing the funeral home to expand according to the approved plans and cost limits. If Bissler decides to change the plans for the building expansion due to financial constraints, it would be referred back to the city Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.

"One last point, the crematory is not an addition to the structure of the building, it is a piece of equipment," Silver stated. "As such, its cost does not count against the values set out by the court of appeals for the expansion of the building itself."

Jane Conrad, one of the 28 residents who filed the appeal, said the ruling shows Silver is biased toward Bissler's position.

"I think it's indicative of the entire process," she said. "He does not analyze both sides of the issue. It's absolutely one-sided."

Silver's ruling also pointed out that in the past year, two homes near the funeral home sold at more than their appraised value with disclosure that a crematory was going into the funeral home.

Conrad said that means nothing because had there been no plans for a crematory, the homes might have sold for an even higher price.

"He should know better," she said. "I'm a first-year law student, and I know better."

Silver declined further comment.

Bissler said he had not seen the ruling and would not comment. He would not say what his next steps would be.

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