Farmville, N.C.

Help stop the crematory in Farmville! Sign the online petition here:

https://www.change.org/p/farmville-north-carolina-planning-and-zoning-commission-farmville-north-carolina-town-council-do-not-allow-a-crematory-to-operate-within-the-central-business-district

Farmville is located in Pitt County in Eastern North Carolina. It is a town of about 5,000

people with roughly 2,000 households. The downtown area consists of 3.1 square miles.

The majority of the Central Business District is approximately two blocks.

Farmville Funeral Home sits within the Central Business District and is owned by father

and son, Danny and Christopher Turnage; plus Vance B. Taylor, a Farmville CPA. It sits

on a side Street, Church Street. This street runs perpendicular with Main Street. Parallel

to Main Street is Contentnea Street. Both streets are heavily residential. Within the

block of Farmville Funeral Home, there is a steak restaurant, The Plank Road. The

proposed crematorium would abut the patio dining of the restaurant. As it stands, there

are no zoning regulations in the proposed district.

December 2013

The Funeral Home petitioned the town to allow crematoriums as a special exception the

Central Business District. The owners, Danny and Christopher Turnage wanted to have

the Planning Board address the definition of a funeral home. In their belief, the

crematory and funeral home were one in the same; which was based on the Merriam-

Webster Dictionary definition. The Planning Board declined to engage in the definition

rhetoric. Further, they voted against the request to allow the crematory as a special

exception and recommended to the Farmville Town Board of Commissioners that the

request be denied.

February 18, 2014

Farmville Funeral home once again requested that the crematory be allowed as a special

exception the Central Business District. For the second time, the Planning Board denied

the request.

March 4, 2014

The Town of Farmville Commissioners reviewed the Planning Boards recommendation

to deny a crematory as a special exception to the Central Business District. Before any

action could be taken, the Farmville Funeral Home requested that the matter be tabled.

They wanted to host an “educational” forum to “ease” the minds of citizens.

April 3, 2014

Ed Romero, a sales representative with Matthews International (crematory equipment

manufacturer) was present with the owners of Farmville Funeral Home to answer

questions from concerned citizens. Any questions concerning information a citizen posed

with studies from the internet concerning health and safety was met with “do not believe

everything you read on the internet.” This is quoted directly from Mr. Romero. Any

questions regarding toxic gas, smoke, smell and any other concern was met with the same

retort.

No mention of equipment was ever presented. Many concerned citizens had assumed

that a sales representative would tout the advantages of his superior equipment. As

someone who was against the “cremation station” our minds were not at ease with how

this would benefit the neighbors. We had no more information about smoke, odor, noise

and any other negatives associated with crematory than when the education forum began.

At this point, those of us who were against crematories were infants in the learning

process. We were dumbfounded by our concepts presented like Mercury vaporized and

never is present in the atmosphere again. Of course, we knew that this was incorrect. If

our small town ever had the opportunity to educate, now was it. Education is not a

salesman who couldn’t tell the concerned populace about the superiority of his product.

May 2014

Farmville Funeral Home once again petitioned the Farmville Board of

Commissioners for the addition of a crematory to the Central Business District. After

this educational” forum, the Turnages felt the neighbors and citizens’ concerns had been

satisfied.

June 24, 2014

There was a pubic hearing to allow crematoriums as a Special Exception in the Central

Business District.

The pro cremation group presented how this crematory would bring people to Farmville

and stimulate business. They said the need for cremation was rising. “Rotting bodies

were resurfacing in the graveyard during the 1999 flood from Hurricane Floyd. “ Many

of these cremation proponents stated there was no smoke, no odor, or noise from any

crematory. Many declarations of what the fine people the Turnages were. Also, many

reiterations of how “Mr. Danny and Mr. Christopher would never hurt this town.” The

pro crematory camp based many of their reasons on emotion. Not once did they discuss

how this would be a logical fit for the Central Business District. Unfortunately, this was

more about the characters of the Turnages and less about the facts. Most crematory

supporters did not own property in the area; even more did not reside within the city

limits.

Those citizens against the crematory presented research and documented studies, such as

lack of regulation from the EPA or any other federal governing body. There are limited

regulations from the State. A Penn State study declared residential areas and property

values would decline around crematories. A summary of past zoning requests and the

precedent of the town to side with neighboring property owners in prior zoning change

requests were presented. One presentation educated the board on the selection of The

North Carolina Board of Funeral Services which is the ruling body for Crematories in

North Carolina. http://www.ncbfs.org/cremation.html

Board Decision

The Farmville Town Board witnessed the arguments of the two opposing groups Their

response was a prearranged moratorium for two years. The three commissioners who

were for allowing of the crematorium had premeditated this plan. Therefore, the citizens

opinions had really not been considered at all.

Richard Hicks, a commissioner against the proposal warned of the limitation of time

against such lengthy moratoriums. He also cited a court case “Butler v City Council of

Clinton” http://caselaw.findlaw.com/nc-court-of-appeals/1174650.html. The findings of

this case were shared. He recommended the board table this for six months to study the

compliance of Crematory Zoning Amendments with the comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Two Commissioners, John Baker and John Moore pledged to study this directive and “do

it right.” in order to make sure this special exception was done correctly. The only

specification at that time was to have the crematory abide by state laws and the crematory

site should be shielded from the street. Also, the crematory must be affiliated with a

funeral home.

January 6, 2015

The Board met and made none of the adjustments they had agreed on June 24, 2015. No

modifications of the items to get this right. Board member, David Shackleford, made the

motion to allow crematory as a special exception. There was a discussion that followed.

The Special Exception entailed:

Add Section (6) to include crematories upon finding that the property is screened from

the street. The crematory complies with all state and county regulations. Also the

crematory must be affiliated with a funeral home.

There were many things missing from the verbiage. There were no allowances for what

type of shield from fence or set backs. No plans or prototype were ever seen by the board

for this proposed crematory. No enhancements were made.

At this meeting, Danny and Christopher were given time to answer questions. They

refused to answer, even though their names and presentation were on the agenda. If this

was going to do no harm, they should have felt obligation to citizens to ease their minds.

The board voted 3 to 2 to allow crematories as a special exception to the Central Business

District.

February 3, 2015

Richard Hicks, a town Commissioner, who opposed the crematory, reminded the board of

his June 24, 2014 issue of whether such a zoning amendment was in compliance with the

“purpose in view” statue. This is located in the North Carolina General Statues NCGS

160A-383. His recommendation was for the Town Attorney Christopher P. Edwards to

investigate the legality of the January decision.

March 13, 2015

Attorney Christopher Edwards sent a memo to the Board of Commissioners stating that

indeed Commissioner Richard Hicks was correct.

“As you will recall, at this Board’s January 2015 meeting, you voted 3 to 2 to add

crematories as a special exception in the Town’s Central Business District upon certain

findings being made. After this Board’s February 2015 meeting, Commissioner Richard

Hicks raised the issue of whether such zoning amendment was in compliance with the

“purposed in view” statue, which for municipalities can be found at NCGS 160A-383.

Such statement reads:

Zoning regulations shall be made in accordance with a comprehensive plan. When

adopting or rejecting any zoning amendment, the governing board shall also approve a

statement describing whether its action is consistent with an adopted plan that is

applicable, and briefly explaining why the board considers the action taken to be

reasonable and in the public interest.

That statement is not subject to judicial review.

He cited the primary court case in North Carolina from 2012, Wally v. City of

Kannapolis.

NCGS 160A-383 states that the Planning Board shall provide a written recommendation

to the governing board regarding consistency of the proposed amendment with any

comprehensive plan, but specifically adds that the governing board shall not be bound by

the Planning Board’s recommendation.

Attorney Edward’s solution was to have both the Planning Board and the Board of

Commissioners revisit this proposed amendment in turn, this time making absolute sure

to adopt a statement of consistency and reasonableness as called for in NCGS 160A-383.

April 14, 2015

The Farmville Planning Board voted 2 to 2 on the crematory consistency statement. Of

the nine members, there were only 5 present. Christopher Turnage, owner of Farmville

Funeral Home recused himself from the Vote due to pecuniary interest. There was a lack

of understanding as to why they were required to vote on this since they have already

voted. “This is just tidying up the process to make it nice and legal.” stated Paul Ellis,

the Developmental Services Director. This is a quote from the April 22, 2015 edition of

the Farmville Enterprise.

Of the members present it is unclear whether they had knowledge of, or had ever been

given a copy of the comprehensive land use plan. Yet, they were charged with voting if

the special request complied with the land use plan. They relied on Paul Ellis to

determine if it is inline with the plan. The other quandary is was the vote legal? It

appears there would not be a quorum with the recusal of Christopher Turnage. Since

there was a tie there was no statement given as to the consistency of the zoning

amendment with the land use plan.

The Vote of Consistency will be voted on the Farmville Town Commissioners on

Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

May 5, 2015

When the discussion of the Crematory and its application and compliance with the

Farmville 2006 Land Use Plan was considered, Commissioner Richard Hicks posed

questions and concerns about the Planning Board Meeting on April 14, 2015. He was not

sure that a quorum was present to vote. The Town attorney assured him this requirement

was indeed met. Hicks questioned the fact that since the Planning Board had met and a

tie had occurred there was no written recommendation to the Town Board, and the NCGS

160A -383 specifically commands, “A written recommendation SHALL be provided to

the Board”. The discussion proceeded with the Town Attorney clarifying on three

different times that in order for the town to be above judicial review this matter needed to

go back to the Planning Board for written recommendation. During this discussion,

Town Commissioner David Shackleford made a motion to accept that the crematory as a

special exception is in compliance with the land use plan. He and two other

commissioners, John Baker and John Moore reiterated that the Town Board’s authority

would override any decisions made by the Planning Board. They felt “they were kicking

the can around” and any decision the Planning Board would make would be of no

consequence. Commissioner Moore declared, “As far as going to court, a lot of things

scare me, that’s one that don’t.” Commissioner Hicks reminded his counterparts the

citizens of Farmville must abide by rules, the Town Board must also follow the law.

Four times during this discussion David Shackleford repeated his desire to vote, “ keep it

on the floor, vote it up or down, we have the final say so” despite the Town Attorney’s

advice to avoid legal ramifications. John Moore stated,” we have danced around this

issue for two years. This has hurt the town, not for the Turnages, but for the opposition. I

will vote for the crematory to come to town!”

When David Shackleford’s motion to vote on the crematory’s compliance with the land

use plan was called for a vote it was not approved. John Moore then made a motion to

send the item back to the Planning Board for a written recommendation it was approved.

May 12, 2015

The Farmville Planning Board met and decided to table this matter.

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