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City to Change Zoning for Crematories

The Charlotte City Council tonight will consider closing a loophole in the zoning ordinance that allowed a cremation company to set-up shop in residential area off Central Avenue. A strange quirk of the city's zoning rules allows stand alone crematories only in districts that are zoned for business or a mix of residential and business. Industrial areas are off limits, which is how the Cremation Society of Charlotte ended up on Lyon Court two years ago. That's in the Commonwealth-Morningside neighborhood where homes and small businesses mingle and residents had a lot of concerns about a crematory. "Environmental impact, odor or smoke or something like that, perhaps traffic, you know a hearse coming in and out - that type of thing," says Commonwealth-Morningside neighborhood association president Jeannie Fennell. Cremation Society of Charlotte CEO Clarence Boston wasn't thrilled with the situation either. He'd have preferred to be in an industrial area. "I think that's more of an appropriate place for the crematoriums," says Boston. According to staff at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning department, this issue hasn't come up much in the past. But cremation is gaining in popularity and now about ten companies offer the services in Charlotte. Most are affiliated with a funeral home, mortuary or cemetery - which has always been allowed and for which zoning rules won't change. Pending approval from the city council tonight, stand alone crematories will be restricted to business and industrial zones and must stay at least 400 feet from a residential area. The new rule won't apply to existing crematories, so the Cremation Society of Charlotte can stay on Lyon Court. But Clarence Boston is looking to move in the next six months anyway, because his business did about 500 cremations last year and has outgrown the current location.