Plans for a development including a funeral home and open storage yard were recently recommended for approval by the Forsyth County Planning Board.
At a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16, members voted 5-0 to recommend approval of a request from applicant Capkey Clifton Partners LLC for a conditional-use permit to build an 8,670-square-foot miscellaneous service establishment for a funeral home/mortuary with a future 20,000-square-foot expansion with a total of 63 parking spaces and an open storage yard with 110 parking spaces on 7.7 acres currently zoned commercial business district (CBD).
The property is located east of Peachtree Parkway at the intersection with Granite Lane.
The request will next go to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.
During the public hearing Ethan Underwood, a zoning attorney representing the development, said there had been several attempts to find a use for the property over the years.
“There have been multiple, multiple attempts to develop this for some other useable use,” Underwood said. “Certain restaurants have been denied, certain retail uses have been denied. We think we’ve finally come up with a use that fits with the community, considers the comprehensive plan and also provides some value to the property owner.”
Underwood said under conditions no crematory, cemetery or embalming will be done on the site, which “will simply be an event facility for end-of-life services.”
Conditions also state that the funeral home’s hearse will be stored in the back of the business away and the funeral home and storage yard will be completely separate, including a condition that the funeral home cannot use the yard for storage purposes.
Scott Young with Service Corporation International, who would operate the proposed funeral home, said state law requires a room for embalming to be included, but it will not be used.
He said embalming for the company’s funeral homes in the region was done at a facility in Roswell and bodies were brought to the local funeral homes before services.
Conditions for the open storage yard include that working on items stored in the yard is prohibited, vehicles will not be parked in or blocking right-of-way, lighting will be activated by motion and will shut off 15 minutes after last detecting motion, personnel and authorized customers will have electronic access and the yard will only be accessible from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.
On the other side of the public hearing, several speakers said they were opposed to the location of the funeral home for reasons including concerns the business would impact home values, fears the funeral home could traumatize kids in nearby neighborhoods, traffic and cultural reasons.
One speaker said more than 50 nearby neighbors had signed a petition opposed to the funeral home.
Underwood said the funeral home would front Peachtree Parkway and would be separate from residences by the storage yard.
District 2 planning member Stacy Guy said while he understood neighbors’ concerns “the morbidity factor of this land issue is not something that state law says we can take into account.”
“I’ve learned a lot in this process and have talked to a lot of the community, have learned a lot about people’s view and people’s cultural views and religious views when it surrounds this type of issue, and I’ve tried to be respectful of that, and I know Commissioner [Alfred] John has as well,” Guy said.
Guy, who made the motion to recommend approval, pointed out that there are currently no funeral homes in south Forsyth and only two in the city of Cumming and said he hoped conditions put on the zoning would help with neighbors’ issues.
“It’s a business that, unfortunately, our families are all going to need at one point in time,” he said. “I’ve been a customer of a funeral home, I’m sure you guys have as well. We don’t have any in south Forsyth right now.”