Moving isn’t an option for a Town of Tonawanda crematory trying to appease neighbors who have complained about its odors, according to the state.
“The New York State Cemetery Board determined that it cannot permit a funeral home-operated crematory to move to a new location because that would be tantamount to allowing the funeral home to open a new crematory – something that is prohibited by state law banning funeral home and cemetery/crematory combinations,” said Jorge I. Montalvo, a Department of State spokesman.
Sheridan Park Inc., a nonprofit crematory operating in Amigone Funeral Home, 2600 Sheridan Drive, last week cited neighborhood and state opposition in withdrawing its request for permission to move to a building on Cooper Avenue, which is zoned for industrial use. Houses, a golf course and ball fields are located nearby.
The request had been before the Erie County Legislature, which would have to designate the area as a cemetery district.
The state law to which Montalvo referred was enacted in 1998, seven years after Sheridan Park Inc. began operations.
According to Montalvo, the law stemmed from concern for the viability of cemeteries; the need to keep for-profit funeral homes distinct from not-for-profit cemeteries and crematories; and the need to protect consumers from price manipulation and other market issues that could result from a takeover of cemeteries or crematories by funeral homes.
Sheridan Park Inc.’s current location is grandfathered into the law, and the combination of funeral home and crematory can continue as long as ownership doesn’t change, Montalvo said.
But that status would be lost if the crematory moves or increases its capacity, he continued. In that event, it would have to halt operations or be taken over by another cemetery.
“We are grandfathered to have one. We are going to fight this,” Vincent J. Amigone, CEO of the family-owned funeral home chain, said Thursday.
Amigone said that what the state is saying now conflicts with a request by the State Cemetery Board earlier this year that the crematory look at other locations. The three-member Cemetery Board comprises designees of the state attorney general, health commissioner and secretary of state.
In a July accord with the Attorney General’s Office, the crematory agreed to a six-month shutdown as owners tried to resolve complaints by neighbors, who also were seeking a public-nuisance lawsuit. The designee from that office recused himself from discussing the proposed move, Amigone said.
That July agreement requires Sheridan Park Inc. to pursue relocating operations, with necessary state or local approvals. It also stipulates that if the crematory cannot move, it must retain a technical expert to evaluate operations and make recommendations on engineering solutions to resolve community concerns.
Amigone said the equipment isn’t an issue. “[It’s] the best equipment there is in this area,” he said. “It’s not the equipment. … It’s the neighbors.”