Laurel Menzel has withdrawn her application to the Town of Smithers for rezoning to allow for a crematorium in town.
That does not mean she is done with the project to bring the service to Smithers, however.
Menzel began the process to include the crematoria as a principal use with the planning department last October. At that time there were no zones within the town that allowed for the use. After her discussions, believing that was the first step in the process, Menzel put in an application to change the zoning regulations.
Her application was delivered to town the first week of November.
“Due to full agendas, a limit of two delegations per meeting and council cancelling their December 22 meeting, my opportunity to speak as a delegation got bumped all the way to February 9,” said Menzel.
“The public hearing was set for February 23, so in preparation for the hearing, I posted my own ad alongside the Town’s notification in The Interior News to advise the public that it is my application and I invite any questions or concerns to come to me directly, as I am happy to share information about the project and provide education to those who may know little or have preconceived misconceptions about the process of cremation.”
Menzel became frustrated due to a number of administrative errors. At the Feb. 23 public hearing, letters of support were not included while another against the project received outside proper channels was read aloud.
Then council had to rescind third reading to correct an error in the wording of amendment allowing crematoria as an “auxiliary use” rather than primary use.
A second Public Hearing was set for April 13.
Prior to the second hearing, council extended the mail out notifications to property owners within 60 metres of a possible crematorium to those within 500 metres.
“It is unclear to me why this excessive distance is put forth,” Menzel said.
April 12, Menzel was once again contacted by the town notifying her of another administrative error regarding the mailing list, and some property owners not being notified. For this reason, the second Public Hearing would have to be postponed until April 27, another round of letters sent out and another notification sent to the paper.
“So if you are still following this, the letters are going out for the third time, two notices in the paper and I have been at this for six months,” Menzel stated.
“My personal feeling is that this process was as lengthy as it was marred by clerical and procedural errors. To move forward with the hearing on April 27, I would have to hope all councillors would review and retain all the supporting documentation I had sent them in several ways over the last six months and that seemed unlikely. The process seemed very disjointed, therefore I withdrew my application.”
It had been an unusual process to begin with. Normally, an application like this would be to rezone a particular property, but in this case, since a specific location had not been identified, a general modification of the zoning bylaw was required impacting many more people and creating a bit of contoversy.
Mayor Gladys Atrill said it is probably a better approach to start with a specific location.
Menzel feels there is much support for this essential service in the Bulkley Valley. According to her statistics more than 80 per cent of residents choose cremation for their loved ones, and at this time must travel out of town for these services.
“I don’t think the entire process going sideways was any one person’s fault and I don’t believe the council collectively is against this initiative. I will spend some time reconsidering my approach to the rezoning and hopefully get a “yes” in a location that is dignified, sensitive and makes sense for everyone involved.”