Melly to mull crematory approval

It may be a land-use decision, but emotions are running high on a potential crematory in Carlsborg.

June 11 marked Clallam County hearing examiner Chris Melly’s third hearing on the matter. During the first, Melly said it was the largest crowd he’d seen at one of his hearings, a crowd that was overshadowed last week by the more than 70 who filled the standing-room-only courtroom.

Most of the audience was with a community organization opposing the crematory, Citizens for Carlsborg. Many wore signs and stickers displaying their rejection of the proposal, as they were not allowed to speak at the hearing. Only representatives for the crematory, the opposing group and the county were allowed to present arguments.

Melly is faced with two decisions. First, whether new arguments could have been made before the first hearing. If not, Melly can add them to the official record. Second, if he includes new information, he must decide if he will change his mind on the validity of locating a crematory in Carlsborg.

Melly is likely to make his decision by June 20.

The Citizens for Carlsborg and business owner Brian Magner hired an attorney, Gerald Steel, who requested the hearing.

He challenged the examiner’s comparison of a crematory to a veterinary clinic because some clinics have been known to have small cremation chambers — but not in Clallam County, points out Steel.

Melly makes land-use decisions for the county when its code does not cover certain uses, such as a crematory. While searching for similar land uses, Melly settled on pet clinics, which are legal to install in Carlsborg.

Steel asserts crematories are more like cemeteries, which are restricted.

Steel built on the argument, stating Carlsborg’s light industrial park, where the crematory is slated, is for manufacturing, which he believes cremation is not.

He also challenges the county’s ability to allow Linde to change the use of the warehouse at 108 Business Park Loop from storage to cremation, which requires a permit, based on a recent state ruling that deems Carlsborg’s zoning invalid.

Steel alleged county notification did not give citizens enough time to form the arguments, attempting to meet the qualification of reconsideration that new arguments could not have been made in the original hearing.

“Who has the time or who is supposed to research pet cremation on the chance it’s brought up during a public hearing,” Steel said. “Many of those affected by the potential adverse impacts of the crematory are outside of the 600-foot notification range.”

Attorney David Neupert said county staff printed a legal notice in the Peninsula Daily News April 3 for the April 23 meeting, mailed out a notice before the hearing to addresses within 600 feet of the site and placed a sign in front of the building stating the proposed land use.

Neupert represents Jason Linde, of Linde Family Funeral Service, who already has a refrigeration unit operating in the building for the storage of up to 30 cadavers. Linde presently takes the bodies to Kent for cremation.

Neupert argued that any of Steel’s points could have been brought up during the first hearing.

“What these folks hung their hat on was a Western Washington Growth Management Board decision, apparently ignorant of the fact that the decision had no bearing on this application,” Neupert said. “Determining where pets are cremated is not a legal error, which is the standard for reconsideration.”

After the lawyers discussed legalities, Citizens for Carlsborg spokesperson Susanne Severeid spoke out against the closed record, wanting other businesses and the public to be allowed to speak.

“There are unreasonable and adverse impacts that can result from this proposal,” she said, indicating 30 bodies are too many to store at one time. “The people should be heard in this matter — what if there is a power outage?”

Severeid also countered claims from Linde that cremation causes less pollution than a wood-burning stove and that emissions are “negligible.” Linde was adamant his operation would not create an odor and would not distribute ash into the air, due to the equipment’s efficiency.

This hearing is not the last stand.

If Melly opts to keep his decision as is, citizens may have another chance to speak up if Steel appeals the decision to the Clallam County board of commissioners, but Steel would not speculate beyond Melly’s decision.

“We will wait and see what the hearing examiner has to say,” Steel said. “Then we will look into what our options are.”

Also, Linde needs a permit for emissions from the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, which will hold a public hearing for the issuance of the permit after it’s reviewed Linde’s application.

New appeal

In a separate motion, Steel announced June 16 he is appealing Clallam County’s ability to award a permit to allow Jason Linde to occupy the Carlsborg building. He sent a letter June 13 stating he would legally appeal the decision if it was not repealed by the county by noon the following Monday. The county did not repeal the decision.

Steel asserts the building permit for the structure expired years ago, adding that Linde’s request for a certificate of occupancy occured after the state’s invalidity order, making the permit invalid.

The county stood by its decision and allowed the permit to remain intact.

Steel stated the appeal must go in front of a board of appeals, which the county does not have. The county likely will channel the appeal through hearings examiner Melly.

“The building official is out of town and the prosecuting attorney is out at training, so we will definitely need more time to review this appeal,” planning manager Steve Gray said.

If the county is legally restricted from using Melly, it would have to form an appeals board just for the challenge of the issuance of the occupancy permit.

Linde was adamant his operation would not create an odor and would not distribute ash into the air, due to the equipment’s efficiency.

Check to get the latest updates on Clallam County hearings examiner Chris Melly’s decision, likely to be made public June 20.

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