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Harwood Home for Funerals has gotten the air quality permit it needs to build a crematory.

Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency has granted the funeral home permission to operate a natural gas-fired crematory incinerator that burns 2.4 million BTUs per hour. The permit is good through January 2025 and allows the funeral home to conduct up to 1,400 cremations a year.

Construction on an addition to Harwood Home for Funerals is underway. A building permit issued by the town indicates the addition will house a crematory, a showroom and upstairs offices. Rick Harwood, company president, did not reply to a request for comment.

Harwood’s proposal of a crematory in Black Mountain’s central business district last year ignited significant opposition by shopkeepers and local residents. The Merchant and Resident Coalition to Preserve Our Town formed in the hopes of dissuading Harwood Home for Funerals from adding cremation services to its business on the west side of downtown.

To allay their fears, last October Rick Harwood offered attendees of a packed alderman meeting an opportunity to tour his funeral home and meet with a representative of the company that was selling him the 12-ton cremation device (about 10 people accepted his offer). The representative told aldermen at the October meeting that the incinerator purifies emissions before releasing them into the air.

The addition to Harwood Home for Funerals’ 89-year-old building was made possible by a zoning change Harwood requested and one that aldermen unanimously approved in November. The zoning change did not affect the business’ right to add a crematory – both its existing and sought-after zoning classifications allow incinerators. The change permitted the business to add on to its building.

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