Crematorium might come to Stanwood

Stanwood resident Peggy Kitting, with support of others in the city, doesn’t want a crematory in downtown Stanwood.

On Friday, Aug. 30, she appealed the city of Stanwood’s decision to allow a crematory, in conjunction with a funeral home in the former Tru-View Glass building in the Mainstreet Business I zone.

“There are many reasons why I made an appeal, but this one stands out in my mind: It’s about the Comprehensive Plan,” Kitting said. “This plan was designed to protect our city and personal well-being. It’s a well-thought-out document that pictures Stanwood becoming a more beautiful place. Many people worked very hard to design this vision of our city’s future. Now, people who do not live in Stanwood wish to impose a different vision on our Mainstreet I zone.

“I am not opposed to having a crematorium in Stanwood, but not that location,” she said. “I am looking forward to the city’s addressing the issue of an industrial-strength incinerator not being permitted anywhere within the city limits.”

The appeal will be heard in an appeal hearing with John Galt, the hearing examiner that Stanwood has contracted since around 2000. Galt informed the city that, allowing for required notification periods, the earliest the hearing could be held is Sept. 30. He suggests it be held no later than Nov. 22.

Kitting’s appeal states that the city’s administration’s interpretation is inconsistent with Stanwood Municipal Code requirements and lacks conditions to ensure compliance. She seeks an order to stop the site’s development and reverse or remand the administrative interpretation of the city municipal code.

Stanwood officials recently approved the crematory as part of Bill and Tari Dexter’s funeral business, American Cremation and Casket Alliance, which they plan to move from Arlington to 8808 271st St. NW, Stanwood. Funeral homes are a listed use in the city’s Main Street Business I zoning.

Originally, on April 5, the city verified in writing that the funeral home and crematory were a permitted use. After receiving a complaint, city staff asked the Dexters to stop work while they revisited the permit approval. Then on Tuesday, Aug. 20, the city announced its decision to allow the crematory as an unclassified, or unlisted, use. This decision came with an appeal period that closed Wednesday, Sept. 4.

The appeal

At issue is what is in the municipal code. The appeal quotes the following code:

• SMC 17.30.020 (2) states: In order to make a determination that an unclassified use is permitted, conditionally permitted, or accessory, the community development director must find that the use is:

(a) In keeping with the purpose and intent of the zone and consistent with the Stanwood Comprehensive Plan policies; and

(b) Similar in nature to, and no more intense than, a specifically listed permitted, conditional or accessory use.

• SMC 17.50.020 states: “Uses identified or described in SMC 17.30.040 shall comply with the following performance standards so they mitigate any potential detrimental effects on adjacent properties and the general public.” The performance measures include odor, air quality, and other measures associated with the operation of a crematorium.

The appeal states that the city failed to make adequate findings consistent with code, the crematorium fails to meet the criteria as a permitted unclassified use and lacked conditions to ensure compliance.

City findings and conditions

The city’s findings published in its decision document included that:

  • A crematory keeps with the purpose and intent of the Mainstreet Business I zone and is consistent with Stanwood Comprehensive Plan as a commercial service.
  • Stanwood’s definition of commercial use “means the use of any structure or property for a purpose directly related to the sale of goods or the furnishing of services of any kind.”
  • Funeral home customers can easily walk and shop at nearby stores or restaurants, meeting the intention of having pedestrian-friendly businesses.
  • Providing crematorium services is not in conflict with the city’s goals of providing a vibrant retail or pedestrian-oriented downtown.
  • The building will be improved and brought into conformance with no outdoor storage.
  • Restaurants, which are permitted, produce more odors than a crematory.
  • Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) has approved a state permit with conditions for compliance.
  • The crematory is projected to operate 2-3 days per week for 2.5-4 hours per day. Traffic impact is negligible.
  • Since a funeral home is a permitted use and crematories are commonly associated with them, it’s a reasonable and compatible use.

The city placed conditions of approval on the permit. For air quality, the business will conform with PSCAA’s limitations and requirements. The city requires a sound board along the east wall next to the machine to lower the sound emissions 23 decibels. The crematory stack will look like a standard chimney and the applicants will make landscaping improvements.

Contact reporter Peggy Wendel at or 360-416-2189.

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