Help stop the crematory in Farmville! Sign the online petition here:
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.
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
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
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.
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
June 24, 2014
There was a pubic hearing to allow crematoriums as a Special Exception in the Central
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
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
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
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
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
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.