Gaithersburg City Council denies crematorium application

Gaithersburg denies crematorium application

Neighbors spoke out against project for weeks

| Published:

The Gaithersburg City Council rejected a proposal to convert a single-family home at 14 E. Deer Park Drive into a crematorium as an extension of the DeVol Funeral Home.

Photo from Gaithersburg planning documents

After weeks of opposition from area residents, the Gaithersburg City Council voted unanimously on Monday to reject a proposed crematorium.

DeVol Funeral Home, at 10 E. Deer Park Drive, submitted an application this summer to convert a single-family home at 14 E. Deer Park Drive into a crematorium with viewing parlors, and sought an expansion of the funeral home’s parking lot.

The crematorium proposal was met by staunch opposition from nearby residents, who were concerned about the environmental impacts from gases emitted at the site and the possibility it could lower property values, among other reasons.

Those involved in the application for the project said there wouldn’t be any discernable smoke or odor.

The council held a public hearing on the proposal Aug. 3 and held the record open until Sept. 16.

The area where the crematorium was proposed was zoned “Corridor Development,” or CD. Planner Jasmine Forbes said on Monday there was nothing prohibiting a crematorium in the CD zone.

But during Monday’s hearing, council members said that they didn’t think the crematorium is in the public interest, given that it would be so close to other homes. Council Member Robert Wu noted that the site is within 100 feet of the closest home.

“I don’t see this use as being compatible with the surrounding area. I don’t see this as a public use,” he said.

Wu said he is open to finding a more appropriate place in the city for the crematorium.

Council Member Ryan Spiegel said Monday that he doesn’t think the crematorium is “harmonious” with the CD and adjacent zones, one of the criteria for approving the application. He added that he doesn’t think denying DeVol’s application is “the difference between survival and failure” of the business.

Council Member Laurie-Anne Sayles agreed that the funeral home’s expansion wouldn’t be compatible with the neighborhood.

“I think this change in their business would definitely impact the neighboring properties, not to mention the environmental impacts that have been mentioned don’t improve the quality of life in the neighborhood,” she said.

Mayor Jud Ashman, who didn’t have a vote, said Monday that even with measures to mitigate the environmental effects, he worries about the emission of smoke and particulates.

“The site is located proximate to many residences, and the situation does strike me as a compatibility concern,” he said.

Ashman noted the “extensive record” of messages from neighbors opposed to the crematorium.

“It’s hard to argue that this plan is in the public interest,” he said.

Ashman said the city’s staff would work with DeVol to find an area in the city’s industrial zone where the crematorium might be more suitable.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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