Crematoriums have a place in today’s society, no question about it, and right now there is not one in Cherokee County.
But to put one in the middle of a rural community, across the street from an elementary school and ball field where hundreds of children play sports, seems a poor plan at best.
I want to also point out that I am the wife of County Commissioner Harry Johnston, who has publicly stated he plans to vote against the proposal. While we often disagree on issues, in this case we are on the same side, but I am stating my opinion and reasons here, not his.
Zoning issues have been quiet in Cherokee County for almost five years now, and many of the young families and retired couples who have packed the meetings about the crematorium have never witnessed firsthand the controversy such a request can bring.
Even some of the officials on the boards deciding the issue have little experience with this type of passion about a zoning request.
Signs against the crematorium, petitions filled with names of those in opposition, residents with stern looks clutching studies and reports were all evident at the planning and zoning meeting last week.
After the vote was taken in favor of recommending to approve the crematorium to the county commission, many people left angry and disgusted.
But they can still have hope that the plan will be turned down, because Tuesday the elected body that makes the final decision in such matters, the Cherokee Board of Commissioners, will vote on the request.
There may be others who want the crematorium there and I have just not heard from them or seen them, but other than the owners and their employees, the general consensus among residents is that Macedonia is not the best place for such an operation.
Perhaps if a funeral home already existed there, or plans were solid to build one, this would not be so black and white.
But despite the fact that the proposal is to put the crematorium in the middle of a cemetery, it just is not compatible with the surrounding countryside.
That is what a lot of the issue is about: how it would impact existing development. And most everyone I have heard from does not believe it would enhance the community.
Health issues can be debated all day long about what level of mercury is dangerous to those would breathe it day in and day out from a crematorium.
But why risk it? There are better places in Cherokee County to locate such an operation.
I live in Canton, but I consider Macedonia part of my community too. I have had calls here at the newspaper from folks in Buffington, another community to the west of Macedonia, in opposition to the plan.
Some discussion has been about what some people view as just the creepiness of crematoriums. But no one objects to the hundreds of cemeteries of all sizes that dot the landscape of Cherokee in rural settings and in the middle of towns, so I don’t think that is really the issue.
Instead, it is about compatibility with surrounding development.
It seems to me that since cremation is growing in popularity, the county zoning ordinances should be changed to allow crematoriums in light industrial settings further away from where people live and raise their families, not in such heavily populated areas.
I rode by the location proposed for this crematorium a few days ago, and I tried to imagine it there. Probably, it would not be visible from the road and the only way anyone would know, once it were built, would be to be told about it.
But the air quality of a rural community would be changed forever. How much it would affect it can be debated, how harmful can be argued. But it can’t help but change it for the worse.
As more cars crowd along Highway 20 there is enough air pollution to have to deal with. To add more in this corridor seems wrong.
I doubt we would see a factory built there, or a smelting operation, or a power plant. They would be located in appropriate zoning for those types of facilities. And that is where a crematorium should go.
This is not about denying someone their property rights, but protecting the rights of thousands of neighbors in a community they can feel good about living in with their families.
Cherokee is a big and diverse county, with room for all types of things, but let’s find the right place
for them. This community is not the right place for a crematorium.
Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.