A Palmerton funeral home has received permission to add a second crematory machine inside its quarters.
After a 45-minute recess, the borough's zoning hearing board unanimously agreed on Thursday that the proposal by Harold Schisler/Arfan, Inc. Crematory at 517-519 Delaware Avenue, was not an expansion, extension, enlargement, and/or alteration of an existing nonconforming use. Therefore, there was no need for the applicant to obtain a special exception, and the zoning officer will issue the permit, rendering the special exception a moot point.
The ruling was in response to the applicant's appeal of borough zoning officer Duane Dellecker's interpretation of the zoning ordinance regarding Section 808.D.3, Nonconforming Use.
Harold Schisler, funeral director, testified that he wants to install the new crematory machine next to the old one.
"My intention for the new unit is basically economics," Schisler said. "It's more economical, smaller, uses less fuel, and is state-of-the-art."
Schisler added "the old one will be used as a backup", and didn't rule out the possibility that both machines may run at once from time to time.
However, Frank DePaulo, who owns The Estates, a nearly apartment complex located next to the funeral home, expressed reservations with the request.
Among DePaulo's concerns were what he referred to as potential safety issues, as well as how his ability to rent out the apartments would be affected.
When asked whether he has received complaints from any of his tenants, DePaulo said he has not, nor does he believe there has ever been a risk of safety for his tenants.
The special exception was initially believed to be necessary due to Section 113.C of the borough zoning ordinance.
Resident Sherwood Green, Jr., who lives behind the crematorium, said he's never had any smell or noise issues to speak of.
"Everything is done very professionally," Green said. "He's really good to his neighbors; this guy does a good job, and I feel he deserves consideration [for his request]."
In his rejection letter, dated Oct. 17, Dellecker stated the property is located in a Commercial Downtown zoning district. The existing crematory is located in an existing building at 517 Delaware Avenue.
The proposal is to install a second human crematory to the existing crematory. In case #94-95, the Zoning Hearing Board formerly ruled that a crematorium was a permitted use in the CD zoning district.
But, in 1998, a new zoning ordinance was adopted by the borough, whereby Section 306.B.5 of the borough zoning ordinance permits a funeral home, not including a crematorium, as a permitted use by right, Dellecker stated in his letter.
Dellecker also stated in his letter that Section 306.B.7 of the zoning ordinance does not permit a crematorium in the CD zoning district.
"Further, it requires crematoriums to be within a cemetery, have a minimum lot size of 5 acres, and be setback 200' from all lot lines," Dellecker said. "Being as there is an existing crematory at this property that does not meet the requirements of Section 306.B.7 of the zoning ordinance, a nonconforming condition exists."
Lastly, Dellecker stated in his letter that Section 808.D.3, Nonconforming Use, of the zoning ordinance deals with changes to nonconforming uses; requiring special exception action of the zoners in order to extend or enlarge the use in accordance with the regulations contained therein.
"It is the opinion of this zoning office that, by adding a second crematory unit, even if it is within an existing building, is an extension, enlargement and/or alteration of an existing nonconforming use," he said. "As such, special exception action of the zoning hearing board is required."