Arundel council considers softening crematorium proposal

The County Council is considering a change to a proposed bill that would allow a Millersville crematorium that spurred the legislation to move forward — even if the county crafts stricter limits for such businesses in the future.

The council is considering tweaks to the proposed bill that would restrict areas where crematoriums can be located. Amendments are scheduled to be introduced at Monday night's meeting, during which both opponents and proponents of the project are set to testify. The proposed site is zoned commercially, and the bill would require special approval for crematoriums in commercial areas.

The proposed amendments would delete a provision of the bill that would have effectively blocked the proposed crematorium by making the bill retroactive to June, when the project — to be operated by Maryland Cremation Services Inc. — was granted a county building permit. Another amendment would delete language that would have restricted operation of crematoriums in the county to Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., a proposal that owner Dorota W. Marshall said would prevent her from operating her business.

Council Chairman Richard Ladd, who first introduced the bill in response to complaints from his constituents, said he doesn't object to the amendments.

A lawyer representing the Shipley's Choice Homeowners Association, a development of more than 1,000 homes near the site, has filed a complaint with the county Board of Appeals contesting the zoning. Neighbors say they're concerned about the environmental and health effects of a crematorium near their homes.

"I am not out to stop that particular place," said Ladd, a Republican whose district includes the proposed crematorium. "I want them to play by the rules, and I believe that my constituents have a right to be heard."

The crematorium is awaiting a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment before it can begin operating.

Marshall, who has been operating her business from a rented crematorium in Baltimore, is licensed with the state Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors. She said she's hopeful that the amendments will be adopted: "I will be hoping that would take care of it."

Councilman Derek Fink, a Republican from Pasadena, said he would welcome the amendments because the original bill was too restrictive.

"We're going to tell these people when they can work?" said Fink. "I'm certainly not for a lot of government regulations. Building permits were approved. The building is finished and ready to go, and at the 11th hour, the government's going to step in and say no, this doesn't work. I think it's the wrong time to try to step in."

If the amendments are adopted, the council will hold another public hearing in two weeks, followed by a final vote on the bill.

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