Archive for Thursday, August 3, 2006

Funeral home plan is denied

Neighbors bring lists of questions to meeting, vow to continue fight

August 3, 2006

After an hour-long continuation of the public hearing regarding a change of zoning to allow the Gorup-Rusk Funeral Home to build at the 1600 block of N. 155th Street, the Basehor Planning Commission denied the request.

The public hearing for a change of zoning at the 1600 block of N. 155th Street from an R-O suburban residential to a PR-1 planned residential as well as the preliminary development plan for the Gorup-Rusk funeral home, submitted by Basehor Properties LLC, began at the July 11 Planning Commission meeting.

Funeral director Jason Gorup and his business partner Darro Rusk said they wanted to build in Basehor because of the lack of a funeral home there.

"With the growth in the area I know it is something that is going to be wanted," Gorup said. "There is also no crematory in Leavenworth County."

During the July 11 public hearing, a group of residents who live near the proposed site for the funeral home spoke out against having the business in the residential area.

"I just have a hard time understanding why they would want to put it smack dab in a neighborhood," resident Sheree Elliot said during the July 11 public hearing. "I think it will be extremely detrimental to our property values."

Gorup said that he chose that particular location in Basehor because it was conducive to a funeral home in the sense that families could mourn the loss of loved ones without the noise and traffic a commercial area brings.

"Funeral homes are built in residential areas. That is why they're called funeral homes," he said. "My partner and I spent probably a good three months looking at available spots in Basehor. This one is in a quieter area."

Residents also brought a list of questions about the funeral home and crematorium to the July 11 hearing, which asked about any possible noise or odor the crematorium would emit and any health dangers the chemicals used in the funeral home would cause citizens or the environment.

After reviewing the preliminary plan, talking with Gorup and looking at the questions posed by citizens, the planning commission agreed to continue the public hearing until Aug. 1 to allow Gorup time to answer the questions and make adjustments to the preliminary plan.

The public hearing continued Tuesday evening. The preliminary plan for the funeral home included the requested adjustments from the Planning Commission, which were a reduction in the parking lot from 130 to 79 spaces, an increase in screening around the building with the addition of about $30,000 worth of trees and shrubbery, positioning the building closer to 155th Street, an agreement to position lighting so it would not shine into neighbors' homes and yards and an underground water retention system instead of retention pools.

Ed McIntosh of Basehor Properties said the change of zoning as well as the funeral home would benefit Basehor.

"We just feel like it's exactly the right spot for it," he said. "We bought the property to put in residential development; nine or 10 homes. The advantage of the funeral home for us was it was one sale. The value of it was the same. There is also the consideration of the city because it would be way less of an impact on the traffic, way less of an impact on sewer and it would increase tax earnings."

Gorup said he also answered all of the citizen's questions maintaining that the crematorium would not emit smoke or odor and anything going down the drain at the funeral home would not be any more harmful than substances that go down the drains in households.

Even though the public portion of the hearing was closed at the July 11 meeting and citizens were not allowed to continue to express their opinions vocally Tuesday evening, the citizens living near the proposed site continued to oppose the funeral home by drafting a citizen's position statement. The statement included businesses they would like to see in Basehor, Internet research uncovering negative information about crematoriums, reasons why they object to the funeral home at the particular site and 18 signatures.

After a discussion between Gorup and the commission, commissioner John Matthews made a motion to deny based on the location and the concerns of the citizens. The motion carried 4-2 with John Flower and Jason Logsdon voting against it. Steve Douglas was not present.

McIntosh said he was disappointed with the outcome.

"I think we got judged on the emotion," he said. "We did exactly what they asked us to do. I think that if we follow the rules, we should get approved. It shouldn't be an ambiguous thing. I think the merit of the project was good."

The recommendation for denial from the Planning Commission will be brought to the Aug. 21 city council meeting. Gorup, Rusk and Basehor Properties said they are planning the next step.

"The burden of proof is on us, which is always the case with the developer," McIntosh said. "We'll offer substantial proof to answer their objections. It does fit there and it is a benefit to the city as a whole. It is very possible that they (Gorup-Rusk) won't build one (funeral home) in Basehor and then the city loses its revenue. The sad part about it is I don't think we could ask for better people in the community. We met the city's criteria and I think the council will uphold it."

"We'll continue to look in Basehor, but I've already looked in Basehor," Gorup said. "I'm not against going across the county line into Wyandotte County."

The opposing citizens are also gearing up for the Aug. 21 meeting to ensure the denial of the request.

"The more research I do on it (crematoriums) the madder I become," Elliot said. "I plan to make a call into city hall to make sure we'll be allowed to voice our concerns and present our information at the meeting."

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