Commentary

Nagem: Neighbors say emphatic ‘no’ to crematorium

May 29, 2014 

— Residents of the Westvale subdivision in western Cary didn’t want a crematorium near their neighborhood, and they told anyone who’d listen.

It’s common in Cary for neighbors to complain about plans for future development. It would bring too much traffic, they say. Too much growth. Too many buildings that take away green space.

Western Cary is growing so fast that these neighbor-developer disputes are inevitable.

The Westvale uproar wasn’t much different from many concerns about development, except neighbors were complaining about a crematorium, not townhomes or a shopping plaza.

And unlike in many cases, the neighbors won, without much of a fight at all. There will be no crematorium at the Wake Memorial Park cemetery off of Green Hope School Road.

At Westvale, a new subdivision of $500,000 homes, residents came together in force. More than 300 people had signed a petition by Thursday afternoon on change.org to stop the crematorium. They said they were worried about chemicals and toxins that could be released into the air from burning dead bodies.

“There are a lot of little kids in this neighborhood, and they play outside as much as they can,” said Emma English, 32, who moved to Westvale in August.

Neighbors said they also worried about traffic on Green Hope School Road. But there was also this complaint:

“That’s disgusting,” Susan Schallau said of having a crematorium near her home.

Wake Memorial Park, which won approval from the town of Cary in 2004, wanted to build a 3,000-square foot crematorium and office building on the cemetery property.

The project was set for a hearing before the Cary Town Council on June 10 because the company wanted a waiver from right-of-way acquisition and road upgrades.

But when Wake Memorial Park heard about residents’ concerns, it decided to abandon plans for a crematorium, said Bob Brady, a Cary attorney representing the company.

“Wake Memorial Park is what I would consider to be a corporate upstanding citizen in Cary,” Brady said. “It didn’t want to do anything that could be considered to be in any way, shape or form detrimental to the town, the environment.”

Brady said a crematorium wouldn’t have negatively affected the area, including the environment, but the company thought it was the right thing to do to nix the plans.

On Wednesday, Wake Memorial Park went so far as to file a “declaration of covenants” with the Wake County Register of Deeds that will prevent a crematorium from ever being built on the property.

Some Westvale neighbors said they had been worried the project might come up again.

“It’s ridiculous to put something like that” near homes and schools, said Westvale resident Beverly Leek.

Four neighbors gathered at English’s home on Tuesday, brainstorming ways to convince Cary leaders that Green Hope School Road is no place to burn bodies.

But they said they welcome growth in western Cary. A Costco store? Yes please, they say.

This is likely the end of the crematorium debate, but there will surely be countless other complaints about new development as Cary grows. The town has passed the 150,000 population mark, according to the U.S. Census.

“These houses are huge investments,” English said. “You put your life savings (into them).”

Nagem: 919-460-2605; Twitter: @BySarahNagem

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