By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Allowing a crematory to be built in Howard Lake’s industrial park has turned out to be a bit of a hot topic.
A public hearing took place at Tuesday’s Howard Lake City Council meeting regarding amending the zoning ordinance to allow for the operation of a crematory in the industrial park.
Since Howard Lake started selling land for $1 in the industrial park, two funeral and cremation businesses have approached the city about the possibility of building a crematory there.
The council approved a purchase agreement with Chilson Holdings April 5 for purchasing a lot in the industrial park to build a crematory.
Then it heard a proposal May 3 by Mark Peterson of Swanson-Peterson Funeral Home regarding purchasing a lot in the industrial park to build a storage facility, with the option to add a crematory in the future.
City planner Nate Sparks of Northwest Associated Consultants introduced the topic at Tuesday’s meeting, explaining that the current zoning ordinance does not allow for the operation of a crematory in the industrial park.
He also told the council that Howard Lake’s planning and zoning commission had discussed allowing crematories to operate in the industrial park, and at this time it is not recommending approval of the zoning ordinance amendment.
The planning and zoning commission would like more information on crematories, their operations, and emissions, Sparks said.
“Wouldn’t the industrial park be an ideal spot for something like this?” asked Council Member Tom Kutz.
Sparks noted that an industrial park is sometimes used for businesses that would emit smoke, odors, or other pollutants, so it seems it would be, but the planning and zoning commission would like more research done on the issue.
Council Member Pete Zimmerman asked why the planning and zoning commission, or anybody else, is against allowing a crematory into industrial park.
Members of the planning and zoning commission, business owners, and residents are concerned about property values, emissions and pollutions, and the fact that it may scare other buyers off, said City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp.
Peterson, who stated he had been providing funeral and cremation services in Howard Lake since 1988, said he did not see the need to build a crematory in Howard Lake at this time.
Mike Mathisen of Mass Finishing, one of the businesses in the industrial park, addressed the council, saying he and his brother Tommy love it in Howard Lake, and it’s a wonderful place.
“People from all over the world come to my business to visit,” Mathisen said. “Had I known there would be an ordinance change to allow for a crematory to be built in the industrial park, I wouldn’t have moved my business here.”
He also predicted that if a crematory were the next building to go up in the industrial park, there wouldn’t be another one.
Zimmerman asked Hinnen-kamp if she had spoken to any other business owners in the industrial park, and she said their concerns were about odors, and about the kind and frequency of transportation to the crematory.
Kutz noted that as far as emissions go, the Environmental Protection Agency should monitor that.
The state licenses crematories, so it would monitor the crematory, Hinnenkamp said.
Greg Peterson of Swanson-Peterson Funeral Home told the council that if he believed a crematory would benefit Howard Lake, his business would apply for a permit, but he did not believe it would be a benefit.
The council needs to weigh the pros and cons of a crematory in Howard Lake, Greg said, noting a crematory is not needed, and provides no educational benefit to the community.
Also, Greg said, there is the potential for mercury emissions and odor from a crematory.
He said he had provided a copy of an article to the planning commission about two crematories, one in Jordan and one in North St. Paul, that have not been allowed to begin operations due to concerns over mercury emissions.
“You need to look at what Howard Lake gains versus the negative affects of a crematory,” Greg told the council.
Swanson-Peterson Funeral Home uses Heritage Memorial Crematory, located near downtown Hutchinson, for its cremation services.
Kutz asked Greg if Heritage Memorial had emission problems, to which Greg replied he would not speak for another business.
Mayor Rick Lammers, who works part time for Chilson Holdings, said there were three owners of crematories who would be willing to speak to the council regarding the issues that were being discussed.
Any research the city does would be independent of the proposed plans, and the city would be contacting the state and other communities asking questions, noted Hinnenkamp.
Zimmerman noted that pollution and odor are valid concerns, but he was apprehensive about setting a precedent by not allowing a business into the industrial park simply for those reasons.
“Being that you have someone to provide cremation services for you, you’re not planning on building a crematory?” Kutz asked Peterson.
“Not at this time, but I’ve learned never say never,” Peterson said, adding if he saw a need for Howard Lake citizens to have a crematory, then he may build one in the future.