Drayton Valley Memorial Cremation and Funeral Services had their opportunity to sway town council at a public hearing on October 4 regarding a crematorium being built in the old United Church building at 5029 48 St.
After hearing from both the applicants, nearby residents, and hearing the questions of Bernice Taylor, the Early Childhood Development Centre Program Manager, Council unanimously opposed going forward with Bylaw 2023-08-D.
At the September 6 meeting, council gave the first reading which would allow the lot Drayton Valley Memorial is on to be rezoned to Direct Control. This would give council the authority to allow the owners of the lot to build a crematorium.
During the first reading, administration advised council that they didn’t believe the rezoning should be allowed. After a short debate, council decided to open the issue for a public hearing.
On October 4, Mike McCrae, the director of operations for Drayton Memorial spoke to council saying that it had always been the plan of Drayton Memorial to eventually build a crematorium in the space. McCrae argued that adding a crematorium to their services would not adversely affect any of the neighbours.
“Modern crematoriums are safe and environmentally responsible,” said McCrae. He added that they couldn’t find any studies that suggested there could be negative health effects from the smoke of a crematorium.
One of the concerns that McCrae addressed was the amount of time the crematorium would be running. He said contrary to what many think, it would not be running 24 hours a day. Instead, it would be more likely to run 24 hours a month.
He countered a statement administration had made at a previous meeting about crematoriums being in residential neighbourhoods. He says the information was false and that some communities of similar size do allow this.
“With all the safeguards, it will mean we won’t have an effect on our neighbours,” said McCrae.
He argued that it was a service that Drayton Valley was lacking. In fact, if a resident of Drayton Valley dies and wishes to be cremated, it costs more than an Edmonton resident would have to pay.
“A modern crematorium does not smell, does not bellow smoke, and it is not an eyesore,” he said.
Doug Woodcliffe, an employee in the planning and development division for the Town, countered McCrae’s argument about the studies on health effects. He explained to council there are few, if any, studies done on the possible adverse health concerns a crematorium may have. He also questioned the statement that neighbouring communities had crematoriums in residential areas.
He further mentioned that the original application for Drayton Memorial made no mention of a crematorium, and the items posted for the public made no mention of it.
Administration had received six letters from nearby residents stating they were not in favour of having a crematorium there. The highest concern were for health effects, followed by the possibility of lowered home value, and finally the odour that may be present. There had also been a petition given to the Town.
Colleen Sekura, the executive director for Drayton Memorial, said the crematorium was always planned, there just wasn’t enough initial capital to build it right away. “I think most people are upset because they are not informed,” she said.
Sekura said when they went door to door for the project they told everyone about their plans for the space, including the crematorium.
However, residents who were present for the hearing argued that no residents could recall being told about the crematorium. Those at the hearing expressed concerns about lowered property value, the “creepiness” of the idea, and health concerns.
They also raised concerns regarding a possible malfunction in the equipment.
After hearing from all sides, Council advised Drayton Memorial that they should consider a different location to build their crematorium.
“I think the community has let us know how they feel about this,” said Councillor Rick Evans.
By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 12, 2023 at 09:52