Commissioners deny crematory in Carlsborg

After several county-level decisions to support a crematory in Carlsborg, the Clallam County commissioners ruled its presence in the light industrial park was not compliant with the county's code and comprehensive plan.

The commissioners, however, were split on the decision, which went against staff reports and two hearing examiner decisions.

Commissioners Mike Chapman, I-Port Angeles, and Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, ruled against the proposal while Commissioner Mike Doherty, D-Port Angeles, voted to allow the land use.

"Given the way Carlsborg is described in the comprehensive plan and the way I interpret the record of arguments before us, I am not ready to create a new use in this zone," Chapman said, indicating allowing the crematory would set a precedent for the zone.

Chapman stated the business could bring an objectionable characteristic to Carlsborg, an action not allowed in the area's comprehensive plan.

The issue of a crematorium in Carlsborg has been up for debate for months, ever since Clallam County hearing examiner Chris Melly approved Jason Linde's application in May.

Melly stated since cremations are known to happen in veterinary clinics and such clinics are allowed in Carlsborg, the crematory should be allowed as well.

Doherty agreed with the assessment.

"I think the visual difference between a classic cemetery and an unmarked building that does cremations in an industrial park shows there is a clear difference between those land uses," Doherty said.

Doherty also said he believed the Olympic Region Clean Area Agency, the body that allots permits for polluting businesses, would have the expertise needed to determine if there would be an objectionable impact to the community.

Tharinger disagreed, stating the code allowed the commissioners to determine if there would be adverse impacts.

"The record shows there will be impacts, so I have a problem deferring this to ORCAA," he said shortly before making the motion to deny Linde's conditional-use permit.

Representatives for Citizens for Carlsborg, a community group that appealed the crematory, said they were pleased with the outcome.

"We're so proud of the Citizens for Carlsborg, who stood up for their rights at great cost and personal effort and courage for our American rights," said Susanne Severeid, group organizer.

Next steps

Linde said he was unsure whether he would appeal the decision to Clallam County Superior Court, the next step after a ruling at the county commissioner level.

"I'm going to review my options."

Linde said he already has started looking into setting up a crematory in Marysville.

"I will continue to pursue a crematory in Clallam County but there is no indication in the code where one is allowed," he said, frustrated after the commissioners' decision. "That means either an appeal to Superior Court or petitioning the county to identify where in its zoning a crematory is allowed."

As for the decision, Linde said he wished the commissioners had demanded more information on the pollutants they described as a nuisance.

"I was on the record with expert testimony to the contrary, so I find it disappointing they made a decision without asking for more information," he said.

"It seems to me this decision was delayed for political reasons. It was made on election day so voters would not have this decision in mind when voting for Chapman's re-election."

Linde said the code mandates commissioners to give a decision within 60 days, pointing out that it has been 120 days since the appeal was filed.

Chapman denied the allegation, stating the scheduling was done around the commissioners' calendars.

"There was uncertainty whether Commissioner Doherty was going to be able to make the earlier date, so we pushed it back with approval from legal council," he said. "I, personally, would have liked to have had this done weeks ago."

Chapman said the planning commission may be directed to identify where a crematory would be allowed in the county's zoning. Tharinger said heavy industrial areas would be better suited for the land use.

Building permit

Linde plans to continue operating out of Sequim, where his offices are, and in Carlsborg, where he has a refrigeration unit for cadavers. Linde currently transports the bodies to Kent for cremation.

Those opposing the crematory have a second appeal of Linde's building permit. Dayhawk Kim, speaking for Citizens for Carlsborg, said depending on whether Linde appeals the commissioners' decision, the building permit challenge may be dropped.

"Mr. Linde has 21 days to file an appeal to the Superior Court and whether that is done will definitely influence whether or not we go forward with the building permit appeal," Kim said.

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