A standing room only crowd attended the Town Plan & Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday night to hear and air their concerns about a proposed zone change application for a funeral home on the grounds of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church on Racebrook Road.
The proposed application came in two parts:
*PETITION TO AMEND THE ORANGE ZONING REGULATIONS, – Submitted by Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. To define and provide for Undertaker Establishments as a Special Use in the Residential RES District.
*APPLICATION FOR SPECIAL EXCEPTION, PERMIT OR USE, – Submitted by Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. The proposal is to locate a funeral home/undertaker establishment at property known as 460 and 480 Racebrook Road. A SITE PLAN APPLICATION has been submitted.
Mitch Goldblatt: Would the funeral home and undertakers establishment both have to be on the church property. Also would be restricted from using the sewers. And what about parking.
Chairman Walter Clark: The building would be located on church property with 250 frontage and have enough parking, any fluids used for preparation of bodies shall be disposed of by a licensed medical waste company.
The planner Mr. Woods: The plan meets all zoning regulations.
Addition of a undertaker’s establishment on Church property. It will not affect the character quality or livability of the community.
Joe Blake asked if the size of the house of worship would affect the decision.
Marion Hurley: special use changes should be rare. Once we start, we open the door for others. Terms should be worded carefully and narrowly. “Other institutional use.” — a vague word like institutional leaves the door wide open. The storage of body fluids etc would be on site. There are already 53 funeral homes within 10 miles of town, so what is the urgency of opening one in Orange?
George Finley: letter – undertaking is a business and should be in the business district.
Dwayne Hipp: letter – Rolling Ridge and Lambert would be used as cut throughs. Not a good location.
Thomas Hurley: letter – The proposal is highly undesirable, and it’s an assault on the neighborhoods. Just because it’s fronted on a state road it won’t change the excess traffic on side roads.
Eugene Esares: Funeral services are an important part of life. Celantano Funeral Home will blend in seamlessly with the neighborhood and town and give parishioners a familiar place to go in their time of need.
Joe Blake: Do we need a funeral home in Orange… I think we do, but this is not the right location.
Nettie Bartocetti: Opposes the zone change. Yes we need a funeral home, but there are other places that would be better. Racebrook Road is a race track.
Nancy Beque: Resident for 52 years, believes in the strong zoning regulations. Once a business gets in, other businesses will want to come in.
Eric Smith: Lives across from the church, concerned about traffic, oppose the application and the zoning change for the same reasons others mentioned.
Frank & Donna Deleito: letter – Racebrook residents worried about property values, traffic and the impact a zone change would have.
Patrick Freemont: Teacher at Holy Infant, worried about the safety of the 871 school children who are in and out of their building all week. A commercial business in this location would not be appropriate.
Rev. Peter Orofonokos: Thanked the commission for the time they were spending on the issue.
Joe Lembo: Crossing Racebrook Road is like taking your life in your hands. Already has 3 churches, 2 golf courses one Real Estate office, so why bring more traffic in? There simply won’t be enough parking there. It’s not fair to limit a funeral home location to only an “Institution.”
Tim Reardon: Opposes it for several reasons already mentioned, and traffic is a problem. Where will other funeral homes want to go? Unlimited potential locations and it would be hard to stop them once one is allowed. No need to grant special use for this location when there are other places where zoning would not have to change.
Joe Fitzpatrick: His property abuts the proposed site. Traffic is horrendous, lots of small kids in the neighborhood, doesn’t like the storage of bodily fluids on site. If the funeral home closes, does it open the door for another business?
Chairman Walter Clark said IF a special use permit was granted it rides ONLY with the applicant and would not carry over to any other business.
Attorney Marjorie Shansky said there seems to be some confusion as to what the issues regarding the application issues.
• The traffic Authority unanimously approved the application
• The traffic that would be generated by the funeral home is less than what the daycare had.
• Fluids would be in a holding tank and funeral homes are regulated by the state.
• “Institutional” is not as vague as some may think.
• This is not spot zoning
• Will not negatively impact property values
• Re: bringing strangers around children at Holy Infant – the undertaker’s place is Not open to the public with people coming in and out.
Clark said the language had to be tightened regarding the portion of the regulation stating funeral homes could be located on church properties.
He asked Shansky if the commission could prohibit body preparation and a holding tank on site.
Shansky said the holding tank is a state requirement of a fully equipped funeral home BUT no body preparation would be done in Orange, rather all of it would be done at the Celentano Funeral Home in New Haven.
It is not just for members of St. Barbara’s Church, but it would be open to the public.
Elizabeth Myer: Should not have a business in a residential zone when there are other places it could go.
Clark ended the public session and said the two following issues would be carried over to the next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
Evidently many residents were unaware of the funeral home proposal, so the continuation on October 1 would allow them to come forward and air their concerns (or support) for the plans.
If there are three approved zones where a funeral home would be allowed, then why would it have to go here?