Since Councilman Wayne Smith’s motion to approve the rezoning of around 8 acres of land failed on a 3-2 vote, council this evening did not move forward with a public hearing on a conditional use permit for the land.
Smith’s motion to approve a statement of consistency was also shot down on a 3-2 vote.
“I don’t know,” cemetery owner Sandy Showalter said when asked what her course of action would be, “We didn’t want to put a cemetery in their backyard.”
She was referring to the several residents in the Southgate community who spoke against the proposal during a public hearing on the rezoning.
Showalter said she was dumbfounded by the decision. “It was a win-win,” she said.
Trudy Jones, who works with Showalter, said “We’ve been more than accommodating.”
Rejection of the motion to rezone the land came as Showalter presented news to council the state Department of Transportation indicated there could be access to the site of the proposed expansion directly from Smith Church Road instead of funeral traffic having to access the site through Anna Louise Lane.
Smith said information on the road and the fact Crestview would have to install screening high enough to conceal the cemetery from the adjoining residences was what prompted him to move forward with the motion to approve the rezoning.
Asked what recourse Showalter might have, Planning and Development Director Kelly Lasky said, “They can appeal to superior court.”
Carl Ferebee, one of the three council members who voted against the rezoning, said after the vote was taken, “I truly understand Crestview. It’s a good cemetery, but I don’t think it fits where they’re trying to go.”
Carol Cowen and Ernest Bobbitt voted with Ferebee.
Showalter sought the rezoning and conditional use at a time when she is trying to expand the perpetual care cemetery off Smith Church Road.
An effort to expand the cemetery in 2015, which received approval from city council then, ended up failing because the intended land was wetlands and would cost more than $120,000 per acre to mitigate, she said.
The rezoning request at issue before council and previously the planning board last month was to rezone the approximately 8 acres of land on the west side of Anna Louise Lane from B-3 commercial to R-40 residential. Five lots encompass the 8 acres, which are part of the Chockoyotte Professional Park.
Those particular lots, Realtor Jenger Adams told council this evening, have been listed now for 2,335 days with no offers made.
Vegetation has grown up, she said. “In my opinion, it would be the best use to use the land (for the cemetery expansion).”
Several people who live in the Southgate community disagreed. “I will have a cemetery in my backyard,” said Agnes Moody. “I will be literally living in Death Valley. There’s not many people who want to live in a graveyard.”
Pattie Alford simply asked council, “Would y’all give us a permit to bury (a loved one) right in our backyard?”
Thelma Mason said, “I’ve been here 47 years. I’m scared of graveyards, I’m scared of woods. I don’t want it in my backyard.”
Betty Shaw told council, however, “My husband is buried there. I would like to know there will be somewhere for my children to be buried. I hope my children will have somewhere to go.”