Decision pending on Carlsborg crematory

It could be smelly, it could dirty the air and it could look bad.

But then again, maybe operating a crematorium in Carlsborg won't do any of the above.

Jason Linde, of Linde Family Funeral Services in Sequim, is applying to create a crematorium in Carlsborg so he doesn't have to ship cadavers to Seattle and back before presenting a family with their loved one's ashes.

Whenever a type of land use, such as a crematorium, is not identified in Clallam County zoning code, the applicant must take the case before the county's hearing examiner, Chris Melly.

During the April 23 hearing, "one of the largest crowds" Melly said he'd seen at one of his hearings sat in the county meeting room, some in support of Linde's proposal, while many others were concerned about having a crematorium in their town.

Business owners including Valdema Culp, owner of the Old Mill Caf´┐Ż, and Brian Magner, owner of Gabby's Java, were concerned about impacts to their businesses and residential neighbors including Susanne Severeid and her husband, Tony van Renterghem, were concerned over air quality issues.

Magner brought to the meeting his third list of signatures opposing the operation and Severeid came prepared with evidence of past crematorium issues in other areas.

"I would be very concerned to be breathing a cocktail of human ash," Severeid said, speaking from experience with an Arizona operation. "I was near a crematorium in Flagstaff that was not allowed to continue operating because of complaints regarding air quality and health concerns."

Linde was quick to point out his operation would be clean.

"I will not run a crematorium that has any type of odor associated with it," Linde said. "This equipment we've lined up is the best technology out to date and allows nothing visible to escape through the smoke stack and nothing with an odor."

The equipment's special mechanism is an afterburner located in the smoke stack that operates at 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit to burn any escaping particulates.

Van Renterghem expressed concern regarding mercury released from dental fillings. Linde cited third-party studies of his equipment, stating the mercury problem was nearly eliminated with the afterburner system.

"I will be regulated by the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, so if I do anything wrong I'm shut down," he said. "This isn't Arizona. Washington has some of the most stringent clean air laws and I will be well within those regulations."

Linde said the more procedures he does with newer equipment equates to less pollution overall due to the age of his competitors' equipment.

"I realize the subject of death and cremation have a stigma and make people uncomfortable," Linde said, indicating he would put up no signs so business patrons would not realize there was a nearby crematorium.

"However, this is a dignified service that I proudly bring to families in this area at a price they can afford."

Linde said he offers the lowest prices in the area for cremation. He is the local representative for the Seattle nonprofit People's Memorial Association, which has 11,000 members on the North Olympic Peninsula.

"There is a high demand for cremation services in this area, especially near Sequim," Linde said, holding affidavits from past customers stating they would prefer local cremation. "Plus the People's Memorial Association adds another level of safety checks, which happen monthly rather than the state-required annual inspections."

Culp and Magner stated their customers, who were listed on the petition, were concerned about the possibility of a crematory near their eateries.

"My father was in the cemetery business for 28 years and I was in the business too for a bit," Magner said. "Everything else that was said aside, I think this just isn't the right way to go in Carlsborg."

Others from the area joined Magner in testifying, stating the crematory was needed and a good idea, but rejected the Carlsborg business and light industrial park location due to its proximity to businesses and residences.

"I disagree that this will affect businesses unless they tell their customers they are near a crematory because they won't be able to smell or see the smoke," Linde said. "And if a light industrial zone isn't the place for a crematory, then I don't know where is the right place."

Melly said he will have a decision made within 10 days of the hearing. The decision can be appealed to the Clallam County commissioners and then to the Clallam County Superior Court.

"My role is to look at county code to see if this land use request is appropriate for the zone," Melly said. "I'm not looking at business practices, pricing or need of the service, just whether or not this is an acceptable land use."
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