Council looking at making funeral homes conditional

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published:

Aurora -- After residents voiced concerns in recent weeks about a funeral chapel possibly occupying the site of the former Aurora Golf Club clubhouse, the planning commission has decided to study the issue of funeral homes as a permitted use in a C-1 commercially zoned district.

At a recent committee of the whole meeting, City Council brought up the issue and referred it to the planning commission for study.

"Council is considering changing a funeral home in a C-1 zoning district from a permitted use to a conditional use, and the planning commission is charged with considering what standards it wants to establish for that conditional use," said Law Director Alan Shorr in his recommendation to planners.

Shorr said in the city's zoning code there are 23 specified conditional uses addressed, and each of those has specific standards associated with it.

He noted some of the conditional uses are schools, churches, home occupations, cemeteries, outdoor recreation facilities, hotels and car washes, and the planning panel has set down standards that someone applying for those uses can expect. Planners would do the same with funeral homes.

A permitted use is one that is allowed in a zoning district without authorization from any city board. A conditional use is one that requires the planning commission and City Council to grant a conditional zoning certificate.

"Having a funeral home in a residential area conjures up a lot of emotions," Councilwoman Ann Womer Benjamin told planning panelists Feb. 6. "That's why Council has decided to explore the possibility of changing this section of the code."

Planning-Zoning-Building Director Rich Wehrenberg said if the code is changed it wouldn't affect Aurora Events LLC's plans to operate a funeral home in the golf clubhouse because those plans were unveiled before the possible change was considered.

Planners are discussing whether to grant a conditional zoning certificate to allow a party center in the clubhouse. Aurora Events LLC also wants to operate a funeral home there.

He added that the city plans to revise its entire zoning code in another couple of years since the last revisions were done in 2000.

City planner Denise Januska gave planning panelists a list of how eight surrounding communities treat the issue of funeral homes. About half allow them as permitted uses and half as conditional uses.

For example, Streetsboro, Chagrin Falls and Solon allows funeral homes as a permitted use; Hudson, Kent, Ravenna and Bainbridge treats them as a conditional use; and Stow treats them as a combination of the two categories.

The planning commission has 90 days to develop the standards that Council is asking for.

WETLANDS SETBACK EYED

At their Feb. 6 meeting, planners accepted for study a request from Anna Maria for a 35-foot wetlands setback variance for the construction of a detention pond on its main campus on the west side of Route 43.

Anna Maria is constructing a 15,000-square-foot addition and renovating some of its existing space. The entire property is 40 acres.

Rich Metzker of the Hofmann-Metzker engineering firm said the setback variance is being sought because a proposed grading embankment for the detention pond will encroach into the required 75-foot wetlands setback, allowing only a 40-foot setback.

He added the topography of the site presents a challenge for locating and orienting the required stormwater management facility to meet city code requirements, and said about 4.8 acres is proposed to be disturbed.

Wehrenberg said city engineer Justin Czekaj will attend the Feb. 20 meeting to answer questions. The session is at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189

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