Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2006

Opposition heats up to funeral home plan

Basehor residents question construction of funeral home, crematorium in single-family neighborhood

July 13, 2006

Local residents packed city hall Tuesday evening to question plans for a funeral home and crematorium in their neighborhood.

During a public hearing in front of the Basehor Planning commission, residents opposed a zoning change sought by Gorup-Rusk Funeral Home for the 1600 block of North 155th Street.

Planning commissioners tabled action on the rezoning request until their Aug. 8 meeting.

During Tuesday's meeting, local residents presented a list of questions to planning commissioners and funeral directors, Jason Gorup and Darro Rusk.

Several residents also voiced their concerns about building a funeral home and crematorium in a Basehor residential area.

"One of the reasons we're against it is because it is not keeping with the flavor of that residential area," said Frank Feagles, who lives two doors from the proposed funeral home.

"People move places to be closer to their jobs or for the schools. You never hear people say they want to live next to a funeral home."

Sheree Elliot and her husband recently bought a home near the proposed funeral home that they had hoped to live in until they retired. She said she was surprised and disappointed that no one asked neighborhood residents for their opinion about the funeral home.

"I am extremely distraught with this situation," she said. "I just have a hard time understanding why they would want to put it smack dab in a neighborhood. I think it will be extremely detrimental to our property values."

Leslie Nigh said she moved to Basehor after being displaced from her home in Piper because of the construction of an electrical substation. Her concern was mostly for her children.

"My objection most is: I have two kids," she said. "I don't want to raise them near chemicals just like I didn't want to raise them near an electrical substation."

Residents also said they were concerned about the effects that traffic from funeral services and processions to cemeteries would have on 155th Street.

"It will negatively affect 155th Street, which is already overloaded," Feagles said.

"The traffic is already horrendous," Nigh said.

However, a few citizens were in favor of the new business.

"In my experience, funeral homes in residential areas is what I've grown up with in every place that I've lived," local Jim Washington said. "I think it will be a welcome addition and add a service we don't have in the area at this time."

Planning commissioner Ed Bush asked Gorup why he chose that particular location. Gorup said he considered other locations on U.S. Highway 24-40, but thought they were too far out of town and too close to other funeral homes in the area.

Gorup also answered some of the residents' questions.

"There is no odor from the crematorium," Gorup said. "They are designed to only release heat. We have three fail-safe systems to ensure this."

Gorup said embalming chemicals as well as body fluids would go into the sanitary sewer system and are no more dangerous than anything that is put down the drains in homes.

"Chemicals come in a small bottle and are regulated by the funeral home," he said.

He also said he has a leasing contract for funeral vehicles, which means a hearse will be at the funeral home on a sporadic basis.

Planning commissioners, along with Dustin Smith, planning director, presented ways to help the funeral home blend into the residential area, such as:

  • Reducing by up to 50 percent the amount of parking normally required of commercial businesses.
  • Waiving the requirement that 25 percent of the site be usable open space.

The commission also discussed using vegetation as a buffer, especially on the south and west sides of the property where homes from a new subdivision, Tomahawk Valley, will back up to the proposed funeral home.

"My biggest concern is fitting this into a neighborhood with all four sides residential," Jason Logsdon, commission member said. "I don't know if you can fit everything on here to suit your needs with full buffering. There are just a number of questions that we have."

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