Neighbors living near existing crematoriums weigh in on controversy

In less than a week, the South Bend Common Council will vote on a controversial proposal that would put a new crematorium behind a residential area.

Several people living nearby are protesting, saying they don’t want Zahoran Funeral Home to build it in their neighborhood.

The funeral home, along with Council Vice President Oliver Davis, held a meeting Monday night to hear people’s concerns. The funeral home wants to put a crematorium about a half mile from their property, inside a warehouse on South Franklin Street. Most of the homeowners said they’re worried about any possible odor that could come from the crematorium and how it could impact their property values.

But, it wouldn’t be the first crematorium in South Bend that’s near a residential area.

McGann Hay Funeral Home has a crematorium behind its building near the intersection of Edison and Ironwood. It’s surrounded by several shops and restaurants and just down the street from a neighborhood. Funeral Director Pat McGann even rents a portion of the building that houses a crematorium to Northpoint Vineyard Church.

“Most of our neighbors would not even know it's there unless we told them or they had occasion to find out,” he said.

McGann says there haven’t been any complaints from neighbors about any odors coming from the property. He says a piece of equipment called an after burner usually prevents any smoke from escaping.

“Once in a while you'll see a puff of smoke when it first, when the material from the casket and the clothes first start to burn,” McGann said. “Usually it's just wisp of smoke, nothing more than that. Not most of the time as much as barbecuing in your backyard smoke would put off. “

NewsCenter 16 spoke to several people who live just a block away from McGann Hay Funeral Home. Many of them had no idea there was a crematorium inside.

“I really don't know that there was a crematorium down there,” said Velmurugan Balarama. “We don’t have any problems. We don’t smell anything.”

One resident who didn’t want to appear on camera said he’s lived in his house for 15 years and didn’t know about the crematorium. He hasn’t noticed any smells, either.

The woman living next to Welscheimer Funeral Home on North Williams Street in South Bend says she hasn’t had any problems over the past two years. The funeral home has a crematorium, but she didn’t know until recently.

“My husband found out after a year we moved in,” Jessi Jackson said. “I thought he was lying to me because you don't smell anything, you don't see smoke or anything.”

Jackson says it doesn’t bother her to have a crematorium so close because the owners keep their property up.

“It’s nice,” Jackson said. “Nobody is really over there.”

Zahoran Funeral Home’s proposal to build a crematorium will go before the Common Council Monday.

If approved, they hope to have the project completed within 8 to 10 weeks. The crematorium would service several local funeral homes.

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