Crematorium gets go-ahead

Photo/John Thompson.

On an unseasonably cool April evening, a longtime family business felt some warmth from the Fayetteville City Council.

The City Council unanimously approved C.J. Mowell and Sons Funeral Home’s request Thursday to locate a crematorium at their Fayetteville facility, a fixture on Jeff Davis Drive for more than a half century.

With a packed City Hall looking on, David Mowell told the city that nearly 40 percent of the funeral home’s clients are requesting cremation, and it just adds to an already stressful situation by having to ship the body to another location for cremation.

Mowell said the funeral home would only use the latest technology and said this was not 1940s Germany and would have no impact on the neighborhood.

Staff agreed with Mowell and said a special exception should be allowed to let the crematorium be built with four conditions:

  • Only one retort (cremation device) be allowed.
  • Cremations may take place Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. only.
  • If the funeral home ceases operation, the crematory will not be allowed as a stand-alone facility.
  • The new structure housing the crematorium shall meet all requirements of the Main Street Architectural Overlay District and all other city ordinances.

The majority of speakers at the meeting said the crematorium should be built, including Alfred Dingler, who lives near the site on Church Street.

“I have no issue at all with it,” he said.

One person who was opposed to the proposal was Tara Borkowski. Borkowski emailed all the council members and appeared at the meeting to voice her concerns over the crematorium next to the park on Church Street.

“Would you want to live next door to it, or take your children to play in a park directly behind it?  Or, should there be a malfunction due to cremating a morbidly obese person, would you want to be at an event on the square or on the courthouse lawn while a plume of someone’s ashes heads your way?” she said.

One of the issues voiced was the possible effects of mercury on the community.

“When it comes to toxins being released, especially mercury, data online  supports both sides of  the issue, although I found it difficult to find reports with actual numbers cited from actual scientific tests,” City Councilman Kathaleen Brewer said.

Brewer said there have been several testimonies as to the need of a crematory in Fayetteville, notably by Debbie Britt representing Piedmont Hospital. She added Mowell claims the retort he wishes to purchase is the newest design and has a 24-hour monitoring system which does not emit any mercury or toxic fumes to be released, according to the manufacturer.

In order to allay any fears, Brewer made a motion to accept the staff’s recommendation with their conditions, but added an additional condition to have Mowell have the soil tested in the nearby playground and 10 feet from the stack on the prevailing downwind side every six months for five years by UGA’s soil testing department and if there is ever any indication that the mercury level has risen, then Mowell must install an additional filtration system (BAT) to remedy the situation.

The final addition to the motion allows Mowell to operate the crematorium on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

After the motion passed, the Mowell family left City Hall and hugged each other outside after an issue that had first been presented 12 years ago was finally resolved.