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A proposed expansion of Crestview Memorial Cemetery may now be possible following action by Roanoke Rapids City Council Tuesday night which came in the form of an amendment to the city’s land use ordinance.

The action also brings the city’s own cemetery — Cedarwood — into lawful land use conformity, Planning and Development Director Kelly Traynham wrote in a memorandum on the proposal contained in the meeting agenda packet.

The amendment on the table, which passed by a 3-2 vote, makes cemeteries a permitted use within selected residential and commercial zoning districts — R-40; R-20; R-12; R-8; R-6; B-3; and B-4.

Cedarwood, before the action at the meeting, was considered a legal non-conforming use based on the former zoning codes because tt is located within the R-6 and R-8 residential districts.

“The city’s ongoing expansion of Cedarwood Cemetery in recent years represents a possible illegal expansion of a non-conforming use since cemeteries are not permissible in the R-6 and R-8 districts,” Traynham wrote.

Crestview, which is located off Smith Church Road, is a legal conforming use within the R-40 district and its owner, Sandy Showalter, has been trying to expand the facility. “ … The only viable option for expansion of the current business is to acquire additional land adjacent or contiguous to the existing cemetery,” Traynham’s memo noted.

Traynham told council, “This is the best route to go. It’s best to change the table of uses. We’re not going to see new cemeteries popping up.”

She explained there is no land within the city limits that could be used for a new cemetery because the state requires a minimum of 30 acres for all new facilities.

In 2018, Showalter’s proposal to expand the cemetery was struck down during consideration of a rezoning request for 8 acres of land on the west side of Anna Louise Lane. Showalter then sought to have that land rezoned from B-3 commercial to R-40 residential.

Since the rejection of the proposal nearly three years ago, Showalter has been clearing the land she is considering for the Crestview expansion, and putting up fencing and shrubbery to shield the land from neighboring residences. That cleaning and clearing project has included moving property of others which has encroached on her land. “I’ve been a loyal member of the community,” she told council during a public hearing on the zoning amendment. “I feel like I’m being discriminated because I want to expand my business.”

In cleaning the land she said she has found discarded needles and condoms. 

Meeting resistance from Councilman Carl Ferebee who later, along with Councilwoman Sandra Bryant, would vote against the amendment, Showalter said the expansion would not be an overnight thing. There is still the matter of putting in a road to the expansion site which would feed directly from Smith Church and bypass Anna Louise Lane.

Ferebee expressed concerns over the proposed expansion encroaching on neighboring residences in the Southgate community despite Showalter’s assertions the buffers she is putting would prevent access to the site.

After the meeting Showalter said she was pleased the measure passed, but added, “I’m just amazed that a particular councilman is trying to put restrictions on my business when they don’t do it to other businesses but it’s passed now.”

She said she has followed all the rules in trying to expand the cemetery. “I will continue to do so and I’m a good steward of this community.”

The approval of the amendment was a step forward in her plans. “I’ve spent so much money now that I can’t afford to do any more until I get it approved to be a cemetery.”

That process includes having the land plotted out and putting in a road. “That’s next and that’s going to cost a small fortune. I’ve got to do it as I can afford it because I’m still paying for the land. This is a step in the right direction and I thank the three council members (Suetta Scarbrough, Ernest Bobbitt and Wayne Smith) for allowing this to go through so that I can expand my business.”