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Inver Grove Heights rejects crematorium rezoning proposal

  • Article by: Libor Jany
  • Star Tribune
  • May 17, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Plans to build a funeral home and crematorium next to Prairie Oaks Memorial Eco Gardens in Inver Grove Heights were dealt a blow this week after nearby residents complained about potential pollution problems.

The City Council on Tuesday refused a controversial request by the cemetery’s owner, Tom Webber, to rezone a 13-acre parcel of land currently intended for residential use to allow for the construction of a funeral home.

Residents of the Argenta Hills neighborhood that straddles the Inver Grove Heights-Eagan border near Prairie Oaks say they are concerned about potential health risks posed by the facility.

Resident David Jansen told the council Tuesday that concerns about emissions from the crematorium and traffic in an area that “already contends with airport noise [and] traffic from UPS and Thomson Reuters,” according to a letter to neighbors.

“The cremation process emits toxic chemicals into the air. The smoke from these facilities stays low to the ground where it will be spread throughout our neighborhood. There is a growing concern in the U.S. as well as Europe regarding the mercury and other toxins emitted from the cremation process,” Jansen wrote in the letter.

But Webber, who owns the cemetery but not the land, said at the meeting that the community’s fears were largely unfounded.

He noted that emissions from fireplaces and fast-food restaurants were far more serious for those who lived nearby.

The cemetery owner brought a gasp from the audience when he said: “I’d like to find the guy who cooks 100 hamburgers an hour and maybe we’ll hire him.”

The current zoning for the site would allow for the construction of a columbarium, a vault with niches for cinerary urns, City Administrator Joe Lynch said on Wednesday.

Webber, who will be allowed to continue performing green burials, has not decided whether to pursue legal action, Lynch said.

Linda Wendt said she is worried that emissions during the cremation process may contain mercury from dental fillings and other toxic metals.

“It will impede my quality of life and my quality of neighborhood,” she said.

Libor Jany • 651-925-5033

Twitter:@StribJany

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