Public opposition to a proposed crematorium to be located west of Smithers at Hwy 16 and Henry Road, was strong and voiced by numerous residents at a public hearing to rezone the land on which it is to be located.
More than 50 people attended the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) hearing held via Zoom Dec. 7, with approximately 20 people speaking, including Lane Perry, a lawyer for several of the immediate neighbours, who presented petitions, letters of opposition, that expressed concerns over the location.
Health issues, aesthetic concerns, and property value considerations were also cited as other reasons for the opposition.
In general, residents agreed there is a need for crematorium services in the Smithers area, the conflict is over the location.
Laurel Menzel, the proponent of the crematorium and would-be operator, and West-End Ventures Inc, (the owners of the property) have asked the RDBN for a text amendment to the M1A zoning, to include crematoria as a permitted use on the properties at 3844 Henry Road and 8150 Highway 16.
The crematorium, if allowed, would be located at the 3844 Henry Road location, although the zoning would apply to both properties.
The largest concern expressed by the surrounding property owners was over emissions, possible smell, and noise during operation.
The fact that air quality is a concern in the Bulkley Valley, with frequent inversions that are often accompanied by health advisories, was highest on the list of concerns expressed at the hearing, and residents remain unconvinced that air emissions and smoke from the facility will not occur.
Mezel presented data on the Pyrox X1000 and Pet-400 she would be operating for human and pet cremations, along with information on Crematory Technical Checklist and a letter from Vancouver Coastal Health regarding air emissions and crematoria, in the Gibsons, B.C. areato counter the emissions argument.
She also presented, at the end of the meeting, (although not part of the written submitted package for residents to consider), letters of support for her proposal and the need for crematory services in the Bulkley Valley.
Currently, families have to access cremation services for their loved ones in either Terrace or Vanderhoof, which is costly and can be dangerous travelling in the winter months.
Crematoriums in B.C. are regulated by the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority and are subject to the regulations in the Cremation, Interment, and Funeral Services Regulation.
These regulations ensure local government approval of the land use and require the operation of the cremation equipment according to manufacturers’ specifications, and other technical requirements.
There is a general requirement under the Environmental Management Act (Section 6(4)), that applies to crematoriums, that a person must not introduce waste into the environment in such a manner or quantity as to cause pollution. However, emissions from crematoriums are not monitored by any provincial government agency and there are no specific emissions standards for crematoriums.
The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority says that local governments can set their own emissions standards, however, it is unclear under what authority this could be achieved by the RDBN.
In comments made by the RDBN Planning Department in a report to the board, it states:
“Staff’s research has indicated that a properly operated crematorium may have little impact on the surrounding community. However, should the incineration equipment not operate properly, there could be times where emissions are visible. In this case, staff cannot ensure the Board that there would be any meaningful action the RDBN could take to ensure the facility operated properly. Enforcement would be up to the Provincial Government.”
Menzel previously went through the process with the Town of Smithers to find a suitable location to rezone for a crematorium and ultimately withdrew her application after many months that were fraught with procedural problems, clerical errors, and resistance on Councils’ behalf to change zoning overall when a parcel of land had not been purchased.
“It is an unusual situation,” Mayor Gladys Atrill said at the time.
“Normally an applicant would purchase property and then come to council looking to rezone that parcel of land, in this case, the applicant is asking the council to rezone properties and then purchase one. It is a bit uncomfortable procedurally, but we were trying to work with the applicant, as council recognizes the need for a service of this kind in our area.”
The RDBN will make a decision on the application at the Dec. 16 full board meeting.