The Tonawanda Town Board sided with residents Monday night in their decades-long battle against a Sheridan Drive crematory that they say has filled the air with strong odors, noise and soot.
The board voted, 4-1, in favor of a resolution that opposes the reopening of Sheridan Park Inc., a nonprofit crematory operating in Amigone Funeral Home at 2600 Sheridan Drive, unless residents’ concerns are addressed.
The vote followed little discussion by board members, with Councilwoman Lisa M. Chimera calling it a “quality of life issue,” and Councilman Daniel J. Crangle applauding the crematory’s neighbors – many of whom filled the front rows at Monday’s regular board meeting – for rallying together on the issue.
The resolution has no enforcement power. It simply puts the Town Board on record as opposing the reopening unless residents’ concerns are met.
The crematory, which began operating in 1991, has been inactive since July 2012, when Amigone agreed to a moratorium, and State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman threatened legal action.
“It’s been a great summer to have our windows open and sit in our backyards and not have any additives to our hot dogs and hamburgers,” resident Neal Hodgson told the board following the vote.
Residents, for years, have complained of dark smoke, strong lingering odors and loud noise coming from the facility.
But Anthony P. Amigone Sr., chairman of Amigone Funeral Home, issued a news release Monday afternoon through a communications firm before the vote that said, in part, “the operation of our crematory meets all New York State Department of Environment Conservation regulations and is in full compliance.”
Amigone would have to give the Attorney General’s Office two weeks’ notice should he decide to reopen.
Amigone had been considering relocating the crematory to another spot on the property after the funeral home’s attempt to move the crematory to Cooper Avenue was rejected by the state Division of Cemeteries. But on Thursday, Amigone announced that proposal was no longer under consideration.
The solution, according to Legislator Kevin R. Hardwick, R-City of Tonawanda, who was sitting among the residents Monday, is for the state cemetery board to “rethink their position and allow Amigone to move their crematory to someplace far, far away from any residential neighborhood.”
Hodgson maintained he’s not against the family-run funeral home business – only the crematory.
“They’ve been in our neighborhood for a long time,” Hodgson said of Amigone. “They do a good service for the community. We’re just opposed to the crematory.”
Councilman Joseph H. Emminger, who motioned for the resolution, said he has observed firsthand the odors, noise and soot described in residents’ complaints.
“People have got to be able to enjoy their surroundings in the Town of Tonawanda, and the Town Board is here to make sure that that happens,” he said.
But Councilman John A. Bargnesi Jr. cast the lone no vote because, he said, it’s not the town’s job to enforce state guidelines regulating crematories.
“There are no current Town of Tonawanda building code violations,” Bargnesi told The Buffalo News after the meeting. “I think that’s our job – our job is to enforce the Town of Tonawanda code.”
Residents, who were organized by local environmental group Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, celebrated their second victory on the issue in less than a week.
“This is another hurdle we’ve run over,” Werkley Road resident William Pilkington said after the meeting. “The battle isn’t gone until the crematory itself is out and gone.”