Neighbors in Bethany expressed concerns about a funeral home and crematory possibly being built near their homes.
The president of Mercer-Adams Funeral Service asked the City of Bethany to rezone the plot of land at 4107 N. Council Road. The land is between what will be a new Sears home store and an assisted living facility.
A fence separates the Brownsville neighborhood from the back of the property where the business would be built.
Paul Andrews said his home would basically be in the backyard of the new facility. He said he and other homeowners support crematory services, but not on that land. “We just feel that a crematory is way too intense of a land use issue here next to all these homes, particularly next to an elderly assisted living facility,” he said. “It's just a bad location.”
City officials said the land is currently zoned for commercial retail. The request was submitted to change the land's zoning to specifically allow a funeral home and crematory to be built on it.
Andrews said he's worried about a possible odor from the facility and a possible change in property values. He said he has been passing out fliers to residents in the area. “I wanted people to be aware of what's actually going to go in over there,” he explained.
Gary Mercer, the president of Mercer-Adams, said the new business wouldn't be anything to worry about. Ironically, Mercer lives in the area near the proposed business, too.
“The odor is actually non-existent. There is a little bit of smoke when the cardboard container that a person is in initially catches fire in the cremator, but beyond that, you hit 1700 degrees and everything is re-burned essentially and there is virtually no smoke,” Mercer told News 9.
Efforts to speak with the regional Oklahoma office of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Cremation Association of North America were unsuccessful Wednesday.
The motivation for a new facility for Mercer was in response to cremation rates, he said. They have tripled in the last 25 year, according to Mercer. He said it would be beneficial for the business to have its own crematory, instead of contracting with a third party.
But what Mercer considers good intentions are not good enough for Andrews and his neighbors. Andrews said he plans to continue to protest the possibility of rezoning the land at the next hearing. “It's important to air on the side of safety when it comes to our public health,” Andrews said.
The next planning and zoning hearing for this issue is set for Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. Andrews said a preliminary opposition hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at Bethany City Hall.