To prevent further harm to Town of Tonawanda residents, the state is entitled to a court order that would permanently block any reopening of an embattled crematory that neighbors say damages their quality of life with its noise, soot and odors, an assistant state attorney general told a judge Wednesday.
An attorney for Amigone Funeral Home, which operated the crematory before it agreed to close it last year, said the state’s bid for a permanent injunction is premature because his client is not asking to reopen the site but trying to move the operation.
State Supreme Court Justice Henry J. Nowak reserved decision on the matter after the hearing, which attracted more than 30 residents who packed the courtroom.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed a lawsuit Sept. 23 on behalf of the Department of Environmental Conservation seeking to permanently block operation of the dormant crematory at 2600 Sheridan Drive at Parker Boulevard.
“The Amigone crematory has cast a shadow over this Tonawanda community for too long,” Schneiderman said at the time. “The crematory’s offensive nuisance emissions have long plagued residents, interfering with such basic pleasures as opening windows and enjoying backyards. This lawsuit will reassure this community that the Amigone crematory will never again pollute their air and disrupt their lives.”
The lawsuit charges that Amigone is unable to operate the crematory without violating state air pollution laws and creating a nuisance for nearby residents. It also seeks monetary penalties against Amigone for allegedly repeatedly violating state air pollution and other laws.
Amigone agreed in July 2012 to a six-month moratorium on operating the crematory and had considered relocating it to another spot on the property after being unable to find an acceptable alternative site. Under the moratorium agreement with the state, Amigone was required to give the attorney general two weeks’ notice if it planned on reopening the crematory in its current location after the moratorium expired.
But Amigone announced on Sept. 5 that it had “no immediate plans” to reopen the crematory and backed away from a proposal to move the facility to the northwest corner of the property.
The Tonawanda Town Board opposes the reopening unless residents’ concerns are addressed. The lawsuit alleges Amigone indicated it was exploring all options, raising neighbors’ concerns.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant State Attorney General Jane C. Cameron told the judge that the state has given Amigone time to come up with a plan for operational changes at the site since agreeing to the moratorium last year and “they have done nothing.”
She said the state doesn’t believe there is a way to restart the crematory without affecting neighbors.
She said the 43 affected families fear that since the moratorium has expired, Amigone will try to reopen the facility, and that’s why the state is seeking a permanent injunction.
Robert E. Knoer, Amigone’s attorney, said his client is not asking to reopen the facility but has tried unsuccessfully and is still trying to get the required government approvals to move it, with an appeal set for February.
As a result, he said the state’s lawsuit is premature and should be dismissed.