Crematorium might come to Stanwood

After news spread on Facebook about a crematorium coming to downtown Stanwood, people packed the Thursday, Aug. 8, city council meeting for citizen comments. 

Bill and Tari Dexter, owners of American Cremation and Casket Alliance in Arlington, are four months into the process of moving their funeral home business to Stanwood so they can incorporate a crematorium into their services. They’ve signed a lease for the former Tru-View Glass building at 8808 271st St. NW, Stanwood, diagonally across the street from the police station.

The city received a complaint regarding the proposed business and requested work stop on the crematory, so that a review of the issue could be conducted. The city is reviewing the permit, classifications and whether the use falls under the funeral home designation or unclassified use, said City Administrator Jennifer Ferguson. 

City attorney Brett Vinson addressed the crowd, saying that he had advised the council not to discuss the subject for now. 

“The council doesn’t have a role in approving a permit. The council doesn’t have a role in disproving a permit. They don’t have that decision,” Vinson said. 

“You may have come to storm the barn, but there is not an opportunity for you or anyone to engage in a discussion.” 

The council listened while a handful of people spoke for and against.

Cookie Spirk just heard about the new business and wanted more information. She asked why approval for tattoo parlors had to endure a long process with public hearings while the crematorium had no public input.

Cathy Wooten was concerned about emissions, noise and odor, especially after the council had put safeguards in the code for industrial zones to protect businesses and residences from those same things.

Tim Schmitt asked how an “incinerator” was compatible in a business zone.

Kathleen Ruesken of Marysville spoke in support of the Dexters, saying they were good people.

Bill Dexter said he was upfront with the city about the crematorium being part of the funeral home business. 

He shared a letter from the city dated April 5, saying, “A funeral home and crematorium would be allowed” in the Mainstreet Business I zone. Code defines “Funeral Home” as “a building used for the preparation of the deceased for burial, the display of the deceased, and ceremonies connected therewith before burial or cremation.”

In late July, Stanwood Planning Commissioner Steve Shepro wrote a letter to the city’s permit staff questioning whether a crematorium is allowed in the business zone.

On Aug. 2, the city wrote to Dexter again, to say that the zoning verification letter dated April 5 and the plumbing permit issued July 10 should not be construed to include the crematorium part of the project. The letter urged them to immediately stop all work on the crematorium while the city investigates zoning status for it. 

Bill Dexter said they went to lengths to ensure the location was viable and approved with the city before continuing with permits, insurance and lease. 

The Dexters have state approval issued by Puget Sound Clean Air Agency for a crematory specifically for that location.

At the meeting’s end, council went into executive session to discuss potential litigation.

It’s about permit interpretation, there’s no litigation so far, Ferguson said. 

“We hope to wrap up the file no later than Tuesday,” she said.

 This online article was changed Aug. 13 to correctly name the former business as Tru-View Glass. We regret the error.

Contact reporter Peggy Wendel at pwendel@scnews.com or 360-416-2189.