2021 | Gaithersburg

Gaithersburg considers new limit on crematoria

Council discussing zoning amendment

Gaithersburg resized

The Gaithersburg City Council on Monday formally introduced a zoning text amendment laying out specific areas of the city where crematoria may be built.

The discussion came four months after the council rejected an application from DeVol Funeral Home to convert a single-family home into a crematorium. The city expressed environmental and economic concerns.

Under the proposed amendment, crematoria:

  • Would be prohibited within 500 feet of a property containing a residential use
  • Would be allowed as part of a funeral home as a conditional use in the commercial office park (C-P), general commercial (C-2), central business district (CBD), corridor development (CD), light industrial (I-1), industrial office park (I-3) and mixed-use development (MXD) zones.
  • Could be built as stand-alone sites as a conditional use in the light industrial (I-1) and industrial office park (I-3) zones.
  • Would be prohibited by right anywhere

Kirk Eby, a planner with the city, said Monday night that the 500-foot limit would be determined by measuring a crematorium’s distance from a property line.

“If residential uses were to be added or removed from any property in the city, obviously, that could affect where cremation services would be allowed or prohibited as a future use,” he said.

The conditional use requirement would mean that an applicant would need to go through a joint public hearing before the council and planning commission. The planning commission would then submit a recommendation to the council, and the council would have final approval.

Eby said that as part of the conditional use process, crematoria would need to meet certain requirements, which include:

  • That the crematoria is “compatible or harmonious” with the “general character” of the surrounding neighborhood
  • That it not harm the “peaceful enjoyment” or “economic value” of surrounding properties
  • That it doesn’t create noise or vibrations or contribute to pollution.
  • That it doesn’t harm people’s health or safety
  • That it doesn’t violate any city laws or ordinances

City officials last month discussed the possibility of limiting where crematoria can be built, but didn’t lay out specifics.

The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the crematorium zoning amendment May 3.

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