A group opposed to a proposed crematory in their neighborhood found out at the Webb City Council Monday that the project has been abandoned.
They still had something to say, though. In addition to stating their opposition to the crematory – they asked the council to change the city’s notification process.
William Kulju, 106 N. Pennsylvania St., said he only recently found out at random about the crematory, although he was supposed to have known about it before the special use permit went before the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 20, 2022.
The City Council approved the special use permit ordinance for the crematory after holding hearings during two meetings in July. It was prior to the first reading on July 11 that Austin Simpson answered questions about the minimal impact a crematory would have in the neighborhood.
Gregory Stroud, 114 N. Pennsylvania St., said the current method of notifying neighbors is insufficient.
Mayor Lynn Ragsdale acknowledged there must be a problem with how the city notifies neighbors of zoning and special use requests.
In fact, he said P&Z and council members were surprised when not one neighbor opposed the crematory when it was approved last summer. “We expected blowback.”
“We had sympathy for you because nobody came,” said Jim Dawson (4th Ward).
“We’ve had people complain about far less,” added Ragsdale.
Kulju said he would have never bought his house if he had known there was a possibility that a crematory would be built in the same block.
Under current law, letters are only sent for rezoning requests – not special use permits. Signs are posted for both rezoning and special use permit requests.
When contacting other neighbors in advance of this week’s council meeting, Kulju said eight of 13 homeowners didn’t recall seeing the sign.
Jonathan Shull (3rd Ward) called for the signs to be bigger. He asked why neighbors are opposed to the crematory, when the council was told neighbors would hardly notice it was there.
Stroud, saying nobody wants it there, agreed the reason is likely emotional rather than rational.
The council took quick action by approving a motion on the agenda to use certified mail (instead of regular mail) from now on to notify neighbors within 185 feet of property where requests are made for special use permits and zoning changes.
City Administrator Carl Francis said the motion would take effect immediately even though City Attorney Troy Salchow won’t have an amendment to the code ready to make it official until May 22.
The cost of certified mail, which could cost up to $200, will be paid by the applicant.
Ragsdale noted that the city complies with a state requirement that notices be published in a legal newspaper. But since the Sentinel is no longer a legal newspaper, the notices usually appear in the Jasper County Citizen, which covers Carl Junction.
When complaints about the crematory began coming to City Hall, Salchow was asked to review the city code regarding special use permits.
When it was approved last summer, Salchow ruled the special use permit would be issued without the requirement that it be reviewed every two years. He said he was going by a list of businesses that don’t need a two-year review, which includes mortuaries.
The reason he found to revoke the permit is that construction is required to be started within 180 days after it is issued. It has been close to 300 days: construction hasn’t started and a building permit hasn’t been issued.
Austin Simpson, contacted after the meeting, said he had wondered back when the request sailed through the approval process if all the neighbors had been notified since there wasn’t even one person in opposition. Now that the special use permit has been revoked, he said the company, Simpson Funeral Home, has no plan yet on where to construct a crematory.
Also on the agenda, the council:
• Approved second reading of an ordinance rezoning 1206 W. Fountain Road, on the curve west of Madison Street, from commercial to single-family residential. Troy Kinast is the applicant.
• Voted to approve the budgeted 2% Cost Of Living Adjustment pay increase for all city employees. Most employees also received a 5% merit pay increase when the budget took effect on Nov. 1, 2022. COLA increases are typically approved in May.
• Approved the resignation of Nancy Spaeth from the Park Board.
• Approved Ragsdale’s appointment of three Library Board members. Debra White was appointed to her first three-year term. Lisa Martin was reappointed to her third term, and Jennifer Hoffman was appointed to her second term. (Library board members are limited to three terms.)
There are two requests on the P&Z agenda for Monday, May 15.
Mads Gisselbaek, of Scottsdale, Ariz., is requesting that 32 acres north of the Stadium View subdivision be annexed into the city with R-1 (single family) zoning. The property is on the west side of North Madison Street (County Road 230), south of the entrance to the Center Creek 201 Wastewater Treatment Center.
Jason Cook Properties, of Alba, is requesting that 511 N. Main St. be rezoned from R-1 to R-3 (multifamily). The request states that an existing home will be removed and an apartment complex will be constructed in its place.