Monthly Archives February 2019

White Plains Rural Cemetery Association. Wins the call for the construction of a crematorium

The White Plains Rural Cemetery Association won an appeal in a quest it began in 2014 to build a crematorium on its property at 167 N. Broadway in White Plains.

Citing financial difficulties in part because the cemetery is running out of space for future burials, the Association requested a zoning exemption to add a crematorium to the facilities and uses of the site.

The Jan. 30 decision of the Second Appeal Division that the Cemetery Association should be allowed to build the crematorium stated that the White Plains Zoning Board’s decision not to allow the change was “arbitrary and capricious” because it did not There was no rational basis for Council to determine that the Cemeteries Association encountered no real financial difficulty, a point often used to obtain zoning deviations.

The court decision also stated: “The Commission wrongly determined that the 1,800 square foot crematorium would alter the essential character of the neighborhood. Unrefuted evidence showed that the crematorium would be private, odorless and emit no visible smoke, and had passed all necessary emissions and air quality tests. Other evidence indicated that the structure would not impact nearby historic resources and that the crematorium was not visible from the nearest residence, which is 400 feet away and across a major highway. interstate. The (zoning) council’s other concerns that surrounding homes would decline in value and that granting the waiver would allow additional crematoriums to be built on the property in question are based on nothing more than speculation and appear to be the product. widespread opposition from the community.

The private, non-denominational cemetery has major historical significance to the Town of White Plains as a burial site dating back to the 1700s and a site for the town’s Remembrance Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The land covers 30 acres with walkways, old trees and lush landscaping. The cemetery has been in operation since 1854, before residential zoning was established in the area. The operation of a cemetery was considered a legal and non-conforming use in the residential area.

Residents of the North Broadway Citizens Association and the City of White Plains have expressed concern that they have blocked construction of a crematorium on the site since the request was first made in 2014.

A permit was initially denied by the White Plains Building Department and a waiver denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which asserted that the proposed crematorium is not a proper use in a cemetery.

In a request for comment on the Jan. 30 decision to allow the crematorium plans to proceed, John Callahan, attorney for the Town of White Plains, said: “We are reviewing the notice and have not yet decided. ‘leave to appeal from the court had to be sought. “

Likewise, the White Plains Rural Cemetery Association responded, “On the advice of our lawyer, we have no comments at this time. “

According to the 2018 Cremation and Burial Report, released by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) over the next 18 years, the cremation rate in the United States is expected to increase by nearly 30%. Having already exceeded the burial rate for three consecutive years, the national cremation rate will reach nearly 80% (or 2.80 million cremations per year) by 2035, according to the NFDA, based on various factors, including changing consumer preferences, weakening religious prohibitions. and environmental concerns. According to the 2018 report, the national cremation rate in 2018 is expected to be 53.5% and the burial rate is expected to be 40.5%.


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Court approves controversial crematorium for White Plains rural cemetery

The White Plains Rural Cemetery Association should be allowed to build a crematorium, an appeals court ruled.

The town of White Plains had challenged a lower court ruling that the Zoning Appeal Board acted inappropriately in denying an exemption to the use of a crematorium.

But the zoning board’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious,” the Second Appeal Division ruled on Jan.30, upholding the lower court’s decision.

White Plains Rural Cemetery has operated as a private, non-profit, non-denominational cemetery since 1854. It spans 30 acres at 365 N. Broadway, between Interstate 287, the Metro-North railroad tracks , industrial properties and residences.

It is in a residential area but it predates zoning laws and has been classified as legal and non-conforming use.

In 2014, the cemetery applied for a building permit for a crematorium. It was operating at a loss. There was a lack of goods for burial grounds. He couldn’t afford to build a mausoleum and re-bury the bodies. But he recognized a growing interest in cremation, according to court documents, and saw a way to turn a surplus.

The building department refused the permit, believing that a crematorium was not an authorized use and that the cemetery would need an exemption.

The cemetery appealed to the zoning council.

The North Broadway Citizens Association opposed the proposed crematorium, citing the perception of “the burning of corpses at the site and the smell of people’s homes.”

Residents expressed their concerns during three public hearings on environmental impacts, real estate values ​​and traffic.

The cemetery responded with expert advice. The crematorium would not be “seen, heard or smelled by virtually any surrounding property”. It would be too far to alter the essential character of the nearest neighborhoods. While funerals typically attract 20 to 30 cars, cremations are attended by fewer people with one or two cars.

The zoning board rejected the cemetery argument and upheld the building commissioner’s denial of a permit. A gap would be necessary, he ruled, then denied the gap.

The cemetery asked the Westchester Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

Justice Helen M. Blackwood said in a 2017 ruling that the Zoning Board was correct in concluding that a crematorium is a separate and distinct use of a cemetery that requires an exemption.

The cemetery, she wrote, was to show that a gap was necessary to overcome a test.

He had to demonstrate that he could not make a reasonable return on the property as it is currently zoned, that the hardship was a result of the unique characteristics of the property, that the proposed use would not alter the character of the neighborhood and that the cemetery did not create difficulty.

The cemetery had established each item, she concluded.

The board’s refusal of a waiver was “arbitrary, capricious and devoid of rational basis,” she wrote, and was “ill-founded on widespread community opposition.”

She ordered the building commissioner to issue the building permit.

The city and the cemetery appealed against his decisions.

The council had acted reasonably in requiring a waiver, the appeal judges said, but the cemetery had demonstrated that it qualified for a waiver based on unnecessary hardship.

The city was represented by John G. Callahan, Legal Counsel, and Doreen Lusita-Rich. The cemetery was represented by Patricia Wetmore Gurahian of McCullough, Golderberger & Staudt of White Plains.


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