A Scott County judge ruled the funeral home's permit from the city illegally allowed cremation.
A controversial crematory in downtown Jordan has been shut down as a result of a court ruling that declared it illegal.
The Scott County Court decision last month states that the Jordan City Council erred when it determined that the opening of a crematory was an allowed zoning use at the Ballard-Sunder Funeral Home.
As a result, the city has closed the crematory until the City Council and the funeral home owner can decide what to do about it in the next few weeks.
City Administrator Ed Shukle said the City Council will be meeting with its attorney in the next two weeks. Funeral home owner Mark Ballard did not return a call seeking comment.
The closure is a major victory for a group of critics of the establishment, who filed lawsuits against the city and state when the crematory was approved.
"Obviously, we're extremely pleased," said Christa Oldsberg, one of the plaintiffs in the suit against the city. "It's been a very long and stressful year."
The crematory has been a source of ongoing debate and controversy in the community since last summer, when it was first proposed and brought before the City Council.
Opponents worried about its smell, the release of what they consider dangerous heavy metals during the cremation process, and the fact that it is across the street from a day care center.
They also claimed that the permit it was granted was illegal because it constituted a new business at the site and not just an extension of the funeral home operation.
The ruling by Scott County Judge Diane Hanson means the city must decide what to do next.
The City Council majority that approved the crematory said they believed that it was simply an extension of the funeral home business, and thus should be allowed under current zoning.
But the judge disagreed, ruling that the crematory is fundamentally a new business and should not have been given a conditional use permit.
Jordan Mayor Pete Ewals, who opposed the crematory location, said current zoning laws do not allow for a crematory in that downtown area.
Ewals said he is not sure what the city or the funeral home will do. He said the city cannot change the zoning laws now to accommodate the crematory because it would be considered spot zoning, which he said is illegal.
"I guess I'm not surprised" at the ruling, Ewals said. "When I looked at what we had done, I thought we blew it."
A city divided
The issue not only has divided the town, it also has divided the City Council, and the crematory became a regular topic on the council agenda, even when there was nothing formal to discuss.
The rancor only increased in the spring when the funeral home began operating the crematory. Opponents wrote letters to the editor of a local newspaper, picketed at the establishment and called police to complain about the noise and the smell.
Things got so heated, and so many calls were lodged against the crematory, that police took the unusual step of no longer responding to calls complaining about the funeral home.
Instead, Police Chief Robert Malz advised residents that complaints would only be taken in writing. Residents had the option of dropping off their complaints at the police department or mailing them in.
"The reports of noise, smells, sickness and picketers have been well documented," Malz said in a letter to residents. "A point has been reached where it is fruitless for the police department to continue to expend resources addressing repeat complaints."
Heron Marquez • 952-707-9994