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A.G.: Snellville cannot regulate crematory output

SNELLVILLE - An assistant attorney general said Monday that the Snellville City Council cannot adopt an ordinance to regulate emissions from crematoriums.

In the unofficial ruling prepared by John Hennelly, he said Snellville was "pre-empted by the Georgia Air Quality Act from adopting a comprehensive ordinance that would impose air quality related regulatory requirements and emission limitations on the operation of a crematorium within city limits."

The crematory debate began when the Cremation Society of the South opened its doors last summer in a former residential house at the intersection of U.S. Highway 78 and Abington Drive.

Neighbors protested the crematory business coming into a residential neighborhood.

In October, the city closed the crematorium, owned by Chris Nuzum, after a zoning appeals board ruled that the original site plans submitted for the project were too different from what was actually done. Nuzum sued the city in November, and that lawsuit is still pending.

In response to the public outcry, attorney and Councilwoman Kelly Kautz drafted an ordinance which would have allowed the city to regulate a crematory's emissions. At the time, City Attorney Mike Williams said he didn't think the city had the right to regulate crematory pollutants, so the council asked the state attorney general for an unofficial ruling.

The city council was set to vote on Kautz's ordinance at its March 23 meeting.

Kautz was in court Wednesday and did not return a phone call before press time. A call to Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer also went unreturned.

Nuzum's attorney Kevin Moore did say he was pleased with the unofficial ruling, although he said it was "very irrelevant" in regard to the still-pending lawsuit.

"I think it was the right decision and I'm glad to see it," Moore said. "I think the senior assistant attorney general's opinion is the correct assessment of Georgia law."