Decision delayed on proposed crematorium-WEB ONLY

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It will be at least another week before the city’s Metropolitan Development Commission decides whether to allow a crematorium to be built near the corner of Allisonville Road and 82nd Street.

The commission was supposed to decide Feb. 4 whether the Harry W. Moore Funeral Care center could construct a one-story, 1,600-square-foot crematory on the site. But David L. Ring, who owns the funeral home, asked that the decision be delayed until Feb. 18 to give area neighbors more time to review changes to the plan.

The facility has ignited controversy among residents in the surrounding Roland Hills neighborhood, who worry that it will lower property values and detract from their quality of life. About 150 people have signed a petition opposing the crematorium, said Paula Gugle, who lives two blocks away from the site on 81st Street.

Public opinion appears to have shifted, though, following Ring’s efforts to appease neighbors.

In the past few weeks, he’s pledged to use brick, instead of siding, on the exterior of the structure and to draft a comprehensive landscaping plan. He has also agreed to limit the facility’s operating hours and to maintain a 50-foot buffer on the south edge of the property.

“We’re trying to bend over backwards,” Ring said.

As a result, some community organizations are warming up to the plan.

The Greater Allisonville Community Council, for instance, now explicitly supports the project, said Lori Olivier, the group’s board president. Dalland Juberg, a board member who works as a toxicologist at Dow AgroSciences, conducted his own research and found emissions from the crematorium would have a negligible affect on the health of area residents.

In addition, board members met with Ring in a meeting and hammered out some changes to the plan, Olivier said.

“We felt like it was kind of a win-win situation,” she said. “He’s a small business owner, we want small businesses to thrive and stay in our area … and it seems to me like it’s all working out.”

The Ivy Hills Residents’ Association, another neighborhood group, supports the concerns of residents who live close to the facility but isn’t taking a position in the case.

“The funeral home seems to be willing to make some commitment, so I don’t see a tremendous amount of controversy,” said Jonathan Eriksen, the organization’s president.

But some residents who live close to the site say Ring and the funeral home need to do more.

“We haven’t really sat down with him,” Gugle said. “I know he’s doing some things, saying some things, but he hasn’t really told us … We need to have a conversation with him, which is something that’s hard to do.”

Ring said he’s open to talking and has spent hours discussing the facility with area neighbors.

“We’re not going to please everybody,” he said. “We’re cautiously optimistic, but I think on the 18th we’ll have the final decision.”

If the project gets approval, construction could begin immediately and would likely be completed within six weeks, Ring said. The crematorium itself wouldn’t begin operating until around May 1, he said.

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