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Council approves crematory study

SNELLVILLE - City council members voted 4-2 to give city manager Russell Treadway the go-ahead to commission an environmental impact study concerning the proposed crematory on U.S. Highway 78. Council member Kelly Kautz presented a resolution Monday night that listed the various toxins released into the environment by crematories. That same resolution called for an environmental impact study to be done at the city's expense.

The packed room, filled with angry Snellville residents who again turned out to voice their opposition to the crematory, applauded the council's vote to proceed with the study. Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer and councilman Tod Warner cast the only votes against Kautz's call for a study.

Oberholtzer, who was shouted down several times during the council meeting, defended his position by saying that, "the gentleman (crematory owner) followed all the city's rules. Do you want a government that doesn't follow its own rules and regulations?"

Oberholtzer was referring to Snellville's Office and Professional zoning use, which allows crematories. When the permit requests passed through Snellville's Planning Department for a crematory to be located adjacent to a neighborhood in the city, city council members were caught unaware. The resulting public outcry has caused city officials to pass a moratorium on allowing future crematories to be built in Snellville until the council can sort out the confusion.

Councilman Robert Jenkins pointed out Monday that in October 2001, then mayor pro tem Oberholtzer actually voted to approve the text amendment to the city zoning ordinance that allowed crematories in the office and professional zoning districts.

One outraged resident told the mayor Monday night, "You did this. Now you fix it."

Earlier in the evening, mayor pro tem Warren Auld made a motion that the city take the time to examine a possible parking issue that could prevent the crematory from being legal at the proposed location. State law requires that 10 parking spaces plus an additional 2 spaces for non-passenger vehicles are required for a crematory that provides services for up to 30 people. The site of the crematory in Snellville does not have room for those 12 spaces, and Auld does not want to allow off-site parking for the crematory.

Auld's motion would give city officials time to weigh state requirements against city parking ordinances in order to make an informed decision about what to do in this case. The motion passed 5-1, with Oberholtzer opposing it.