Petition, commission vote delay plans for Crematory
By JILL RICK
CONCERNS – Concerned citizens fill the Community Center at Village Hall in Hartland on Monday, Sept. 20 for a public hearing on the proposed crematory installation at the Evert-Luko Funeral Home in downtown Hartland.
Village of Hartland — Renee Evert’s efforts to install a crematory at her downtown funeral home were dealt two setbacks earlier this week, one that will delay Evert’s plans at least temporarily and one that could permanently derail the project.
On Monday night, Plan Commission members voted to table Evert’s application for a conditional-use permit to operate a crematory in the garage of the Evert-Luko Funeral Home, 170 Warren Ave. Commissioners told Evert that she needs to submit more information on the safety of emissions that may be produced by the crematory before they can consider the project.
Then, on Tuesday afternoon, members of Hartland Residents Speak, a recently formed group, filed a petition for direct legislation to amend current ordinances to restrict where and how crematories could operate in the village.
The wording of the petition states that any crematorium in the village must be located 1,000 feet from any residential property and/or public gathering place; that it must be equipped with wet scrubbers, must use wet scrubbers in daily operation and must maintain and keep maintenance logs on the wet scrubbers; and that it must participate in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program.
Evert’s funeral home is in a residential area, so under the terms of the proposed legislation, she would be unable to operate a crematory at her current location.
Wisconsin’s direct legislation law requires that a petition be signed by a number of electors in the municipality equal to at least 15 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last general election. The group calculated it would need 535 signatures, and submitted the petition with 604 signatures, said Jenny Oklejewski, spokesman for Hartland Residents Speak.
Village Clerk Connie Casper now has 15 days to certify the petition. If there is anything wrong with it, Casper must submit it back to the group with a description of the errors. The group will then have 15 more days to correct any errors and resubmit the petition.
If the petition is ultimately certified as correct, the Village Board then has two choices: it can either pass it with no alterations within 30 days of the date of certification, or it can submit it to voters in an election.
This is the first direct-legislation petition the village has ever received, said Village Administrator Wally Thiel.
During discussion of Evert’s proposal Monday night, Commissioner David De Courcy-Bower took issue with the idea that the crematory would be safe for a residential neighborhood. “There is not enough documentation by the applicant to make that assessment,” De Courcy-Bower said.
Research shows that crematory emissions can contain mercury, arsenic, chromium and other toxins, De Courcy-Bower said. “It’s a significant source of mercury, and to say that it isn’t is false.”
Over time, these toxins can bio-accumulate in the environment, De Courcy-Bower added.
De Courcy-Bower was also concerned that the smokestack that would be attached to the cremation equipment would only be 25 feet high, which means emissions could be coming out at about the same level as a second-story window.
Commissioner Paul Decker, a lung-cancer survivor who never smoked, said it wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t think secondhand smoke could cause any health problems. Decker was concerned about what researchers might discover in the future regarding potential health hazards related to crematory emissions.
“I don’t think we have enough information from the applicant to allow us to safely allow a crematory at the location that they’re talking about,” said Commissioner Jack Wenstrom.
In an later interview, Evert said that officials from ThermTec, the crematory manufacturer from which she would be buying her equipment, would contact the village to determine exactly what information it needs, and would then provide that information.
“I am not a crematory specialist,” Evert said. If her application is eventually approved, Evert said that she would continue to handle the funeral director duties at her business and would hire a cremation specialist to run the crematory.
Evert reiterated that her only intention in adding a crematory is to provide a service that her customers have requested.
“All I’m trying to do is serve the community,” Evert said.