Aldermen should consider town in crematory decision

Elaine Loutzenheiser Guest commentary

There is concern among the residents and business owners in Black Mountain that Harwood Home for Funerals is intending to put a crematory at the business in the heart of town. With little information from the town to the community, the town Board of Aldermen will consider a rezoning request on Oct. 10.

Many feel more information needs to be forthcoming from both the Board and Mr. Rick Harwood. Much education and discussion needs to take place before any decision is made.

We do not object to a crematory. We just feel the heart of our town is not the place. Black Mountain is a jewel in these mountains, our special

jewel. People come here for our beautiful scenery and clean air. We have many restaurants within a block or two of the funeral home. Town Square is less than a tenth of a mile from it, and people sit and children play there. The psychological idea of people being cremated while we sit on our porches doesn’t blend with the “Front Porch of WNC” as the Chamber calls Black Mountain.

Five years ago this November, many of Black Mountain voters worked to elect three new members of the current board of aldermen. They know who they are. They were re-elected last November to serve a whole community, not just one business person.

There is talk in town that because Mr. Harwood was born and raised here and four of the five board of aldermen members are also natives, this zoning request was a “done deal” before it even came up for consideration. If this is rushed through with little consideration, aldermen will simply confirm this “talk” as fact.

Many of the residents and business people have been researching crematories on the Internet since this came up at the Planning Board. Since the call for this public hearing was known by the board of aldermen at least as early as last month’s agenda meeting, how many of the aldermen have looked this subject up? This is a subject they need to make themselves more knowledgeable about the consequences before they make any decisions.

The toxins (mercury, cadmium, lead, dioxins, among others) which are released in cremation are in the air and cannot be taken back. The lobbying by the Cremation Association of North America and the Funeral Industry Lobby has kept federal and state agencies from regulating crematories, but the increase in the number of cremations will soon create a demand by the public to have these toxic emissions regulated.

If indeed there is genuine concern for the whole community the aldermen serve, wouldn’t they show that by examining the aftermath of their decision before they rush to approve this rezoning request?

“The Courts have ruled,” David Owens writes in his 2007 book “Introduction to Zoning,” “that zoning decisions must be based on a reasoned consideration of land use issues facing the entire community, which means that competent technical studies must serve as the foundation of zoning decisions and that such studies and plans and public input must be thoroughly considered as zoning decisions are made.”

Elaine Loutzenheiser is a former Black Mountain Planning Board and Zoning Board member.