Archive for Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rezoning paves way for new funeral home

City council votes unanimously for funeral home, crematorium on 155th Street

August 24, 2006

The citizens of Basehor soon will see a new business on 155th Street -- a funeral home and crematorium.

Four city council members on Monday unanimously approved a zoning change for the 1600 block of 155th Street from suburban residential to planned residential and the preliminary development plan for the Gorup-Rusk Funeral Home. Council member Keith Sifford was absent.

Construction of funeral home and crematorium in Basehor has been a hot-button issue since nearby residents expressed strong opposition during the July 11 Planning Commission meeting. Planning commissioners voted against the rezoning on Aug. 1.

Those opposed to the funeral home, along with supporters, packed city hall once again Monday night.

Darro Rusk, business partner with funeral director Jason Gorup said he was surprised when some Basehor residents did not accept their business.

"We felt this would be an excellent town for this type of facility -- one that was needed and would serve the community well," he said. "This is a place for those who want to say goodbye to loved ones. We're not building a nuclear waste thing or a Hooter's for god sakes. We want this to be a family-run funeral home in a quiet area."

Sheree Elliott, who lives across the street from the proposed site, presented material she had obtained from the Internet on the dangers of crematoriums. She explained that mercury from fillings in teeth is emitted into the atmosphere during cremations, posing a potential health hazard.

"I just feel as a citizen, having this located across the street, I don't want to be exposed to this," she said.

Gorup prepared a letter to read to the council, which assured them that most funeral homes are built in residential areas for the purpose of providing people with a quiet atmosphere to mourn.

"I feel like with the planning commission I was not given a chance before the vote," he said. "I felt like it was based on the emotion and not the criteria set forth to make this decision. Funeral homes are well-kept and they don't put chemicals out into the environment."

Darren Nigh, who lives next door to the future funeral home, also listed several chemicals and heavy metals cremation releases into the environment. He also detailed accounts of people living near crematoriums who complained of odors, noise and glaring lights. Nigh questioned Gorup's concern for the citizens in Basehor.

"We're not talking about burning leaves," he said. "We're talking about burning chemically treated human corpses. All this project represents to them is another day at the office. They could care less about the health of the people in this community."

Gorup reiterated in his letter that he was highly qualified to handle a funeral home and crematorium even though some citizens, through statements made during previous meetings, questioned his qualifications. He said he has been a licensed funeral director for five years and was a paramedic for six years prior to that. He also added that he loves his profession.

"I cannot explain the joy it brings me to help people," he said. "This is what I do and what I want to do in Basehor."

Other supporters of the funeral home said that 155th Street was an arterial street and residents should expect commercial development. They also said Basehor needs to welcome businesses to continue to grow and flourish.

"The reputation of Basehor as hostile to community development is holding us back," Jim Washington said. "Basehor needs the sales tax base and real estate base. This is a service and this gentleman (Gorup) has impressed me with his sincerity in his presentation. I think it is incumbent on the council to go ahead and approve this usage."

The four council members agreed that while there were still some points to consider, such as hours of operation and the sewer impact, the funeral home was a welcome addition to the city.

"There are a lot of comments that are very emotional," council member Bill Hooker said. "We're trying not to make our decision based on emotion. I'm here to help this city grow in a good controlled fashion. I think this funeral home fits in really well and it's in a good location."

"I think it's a good thing for Basehor," council member Iris Dysart said.

Gorup said that he is still working with builders on final designs for the facility.

"We are willing to work with people in the area to get it to look like a funeral home -- not a funeral building," he said. "We were truthful and honest throughout the entire thing. I don't poison children. I don't cause birth defects. I wish people would do more research for themselves, but we're happy."

Calvin Quisenberry, owner of Quisenberry Funeral Home in Tonganoxie, who recently purchased a house west of Basehor on U.S. Highway 24-40 to expand his business, said the approval of Gorup-Rusk funeral home would not alter his plans.

"I think I can continue to serve the people I have been serving," he said. "We're on schedule and we'll keep working on our place to get it up and running. We're excited for the new opportunity and wish him (Gorup) the best of luck."

In other action Monday night, the council:

  • Approved, 4-0, to appeal the developer assessment fees for Falcon Lakes.
  • Approved, 4-0, to table until Sept. 7 consideration of a zoning change request from R-0 suburban residential to R-1 single-family residential and a preliminary plat for Silver Springs subdivision, 15977 Leavenworth Road.
  • Denied, 4-0, amendments to subdivision regulations that would change the amount of open space required with new development from 3 percent to 15 percent and to more specifically identify land that can be used to satisfy open space requirements.
  • Approved, 4-0, amendments to the planned residential district regulations of the zoning ordinance that relate to open space requirements associated with new development and to more specifically identify land that can be used to satisfy open space requirements.
  • Agreed, 4-0, to table authorizing payment of $37,917.89 to MHS engineering for Hollingsworth Road design work.
  • Approved, 4-0, ordinances adopting the 2006 Standard Traffic Ordinances and Public Offense Codes.
  • Approved, 3-1, with Hooker opposed, to authorize the police department to solicit bids to purchase a police car and equipment package.
  • Met in executive session to discuss matters related to attorney-client privileged and land acquisition.

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