An Anne Arundel County appeals board may be the only way disgruntled neighbors can prevent a crematorium in their Millersville neighborhood, as county officials stressed that the plan would not be affected by pending legislation restricting where crematoriums can be located.
Larry R. Tom, the county's director of the Office of Planning and Zoning, said the proposed bill, which would prohibit crematoriums in commercially zoned areas such as the Millersville site, would not prevent the planned facility from opening if two proposed amendments are adopted.
"It would have no impact," said Tom. "They have vested rights. The bill would not preclude them from opening as drafted right now."
The County Council on Monday night introduced two amendments to the bill, removing restrictions on operating hours and changing the date on which the legislation would take effect. Council Chairman Richard Ladd, a Republican from Severna Park, introduced the legislation in June after an outcry from his constituents over the proposed project.
Ladd's original bill would have blocked the Millersville crematorium, which has already obtained county permits. The amendments came after some council members complained the bill was anti-business.
The proposed changes followed a public hearing on the legislation that drew dozens of those from both sides of the issue. The planned crematorium, which would be run by Dorota W. Marshall, owner of Maryland Cremation Services, and her husband, Sean Marshall, also needs approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment before it can begin operating. MDE regulates the environmental impact of the state's 62 crematoriums.
Residents of the Shipley's Choice community, which includes about 1,000 homes in close proximity to the planned crematorium, told the council they're concerned about effects on safety and the environment, as well as a reduction in home prices and the ability to sell.
Kathleen Elmore, who lives in the neighborhood, questioned the crematorium's business plan.
"Crematoriums are known to emit dangerous chemicals in the air," said Elmore.
Marshall began operating from a crematory in Baltimore in 2008. She charges $875 for cremation services, which she says is about 50 percent less than that charged by funeral homes.
John F. Dougherty, an attorney representing the Shipley's Choice Homeowners Association, has filed a challenge to the building and plumbing permits for the project with the county Board of Appeals. A hearing is set for Aug. 17.
Doherty told the council that residents are especially concerned with air pollutants in proximity to their homes and Shipley's Choice Elementary School, which is near the proposed site.
Despite the assertions that the pending bill would not prevent the crematorium, Dorota Marshall said the bill should not be passed and worries that it will threaten her business in the future. Marshall said she has already spent $120,000 on the project and plans to invest upwards of $200,000.
"This would completely devastate us," said Marshall. "This would put our whole future in peril."
Bill Pitcher, at attorney for Marshall, said the bill would need "significant amendments" to safeguard Marshall's investment.
"The Marshalls have invested their life savings, hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Pitcher. "Really, you should kill the bill."
Marshall also hired a certified appraiser, who told the council that the crematorium would have "no effect at all" on home values.
The council will hold another public hearing on the proposed amendments on Aug. 15.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun