BETHEL Crematorium up in smoke
BETHEL — A proposal to put a crematorium in Clarke Business Park could finally be dead.
A judge Thursday dismissed an appeal of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s rejection of a plan to open a crematorium in the industrial park.
Residents had despised the proposal, with some business owners threatening to leave the park if it was approved, but applicant B. Shawn McLoughlin maintained the crematorium would have little effect on the area. He sued in 2015 after the commission narrowly defeated his plan.
Charles Andres, attorney for the town, said Bethel officials were pleased the appeal was dismissed.
Daniel Casagrande, attorney for McLoughlin, said he is not yet sure whether they will appeal the case to the appellate court.
“We are reviewing the decision, which just came down yesterday, and considering our options on appeal,” he said Friday.
In a memorandum, Judge Marshall Berger argued the Planning and Zoning Commission had the authority to reject the proposal because it would have driven down property values and hurt planned development of the business park, among other reasons.
“Evidence that stakeholders in the industrial park will not expand or invest or will leave the park or the town due to the stigma of the proposed use is substantial evidence supporting the commission’s denial of the permit under the general considerations...of the regulations,” he said.
The commission is now considering a proposal to extend Trowbridge Drive, a cul-de-sac in Clarke Business Park where the crematorium would have gone. The plan calls for adding four lots to the park.
In the appeal, Casagrande had argued the commission’s decision was based not on facts, but “thinly veiled threats” that the crematorium would hurt nearby business owners.
“The commission’s conceded reliance on these objections makes clear that it capitulated to these speculative threats and claims by and on behalf of a few disgruntled neighboring businesses...” he said.
Connecticut Coining, the business that would have been next door to the crematorium, joined the town as defendants in the suit. Neil Marcus, attorney for Connecticut Coining, said the commission was right to defeat the proposal based on business owners’ complaints.
“These are people who understandably do not want to be exposed in any way to the sights, sounds or orders associated with burning human bodies in their backyards, and it was the commission’s duty to protect those interests,” Marcus argued in a brief.
Concerns that the crematorium would be too close to Sympaug Pond, which is in a residential zone, were also valid reasons to reject the proposal, Berger concluded.
The commission adopted a zoning regulation in 2014 that would have allowed crematoriums in industrial zones, but a year later caved to public concerns and repealed the amendment. Months later, McLoughlin’s proposal was rejected.
The crematorium would have been built on McLoughlin’s 6.47 acre property next to his concrete business, Mono-Crete Step. He planned to construct two buildings, one of which would have been used as the crematorium.
The business would have been small and passerby would not have been able to see it, Casagrande said in court filings.