Crematorium debate heats up

Jim Yamada just wanted to make his point. The Porter Creek lot that may be rezoned for Heritage North Funeral Home’s new crematorium had…

Jim Yamada just wanted to make his point.

The Porter Creek lot that may be rezoned for Heritage North Funeral Home’s new crematorium had always been zoned for commercial use; the residential area was put in later.

As Yamada, spoke, the passionate crowd of disgruntled Porter Creek residents shouted out angrily that he was wrong.

Mayor Bev Buckway was forced to call the meeting to order with the loud crack of her gavel.

By the end of the meeting, 24 delegates had come forth with opinions. Yamada and other supporters were in the minority.

Critics were able to come up with myriad reasons to block the business.

A few talked about ice fog and the adverse effects it could have on an already dangerous portion of the highway.

If crematoria are so safe, then why has Europe banned them from urban areas? asked John Horvath.

Area resident Monica Whitney raised some health concerns of her own. Three grams of mercury released per cremation will effect local children’s brain development, she said.

The furnace chimney would be an eyesore, said D’Arcy LaCoste, who has a friend in Calgary that had trouble selling his home because it was close to a crematorium.

Carole Bookless was convinced that the hearing shouldn’t even be taking place. Crematoria are considered heavy industrial and therefore cannot be allowed on the proposed commercial lot, she said.

She also read an article from the Globe and Mail in which BC residents spoke out against the “greasy, white ash” being sprinkled around their neighbourhood by a local crematorium.

Many of those opposing the proposal appealed on a more emotional level, concerned by what Jane Olsen called “the creep factor.”

They were worried about the psychological effects the proposed crematorium may have, especially for their children.

“We will be reminded of death everyday,” said one Porter Creek resident.

Naresh Prasad of Riverdale, “not Porter Creek thank goodness,” understood their concerns.

“I am from India and I think of ghosts,” he said.

Linda LaCoste submitted a petition, signed by 130 people, opposed to the development.

The proposal did have its friends however.

Heritage North owners Chris and Holly Thompson tried to calm the public’s concern.

They promised that the chimney would not be obtrusive and displayed plans for an attractive new funeral home.

They provided emission data to the city and have spoken to crematorium owners in Alaska and Edmonton who said they had no trouble with smoke or ice fog in their similar cold climates.

Chris Thompson didn’t understand the fear of ghosts: “No one has a problem with a funeral home going on the location.” He reminded everyone that all funeral homes “shelter human remains.”

Colin Moonen, a Porter Creek resident, agrees that there is a need for a new funeral home, especially one with a more private location.

In fact, the one thing that everyone could agree on at  Monday night’s meeting was the need for a crematorium in Whitehorse — just not at the entrance to Porter Creek.

Yamada, a real estate appraiser, was asked his expert opinion as to whether he thought housing prices would drop in the area if a crematorium were to be built.

Technically they shouldn’t, he said, “but it’s hard to measure the emotional value that people place on things.”

The hecklers had the last say, however. Instead of the fervent applause all those opposed received as they finished, there was one lone voice from the back of the crowd, “You’re wrong, Jim.”