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Culture shock: Neighborhood protests funeral home zoned next door


Asian residents call it religious issue



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Residents at the Johns Creek Planning Commission show their displeasure with the funeral home planned next to their subdivision. HATCHER HURD/Staff. (click for larger version)
November 13, 2013
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Nov. 5 Johns Creek Planning Commission was packed with residents flourishing signs to show their displeasure about the funeral home rezoning that would place it next door to their Bell Road subdivision.

Wages Funeral Home wants to build a funeral home on 2.2 acres at the southeast corner of Bell Road and Medlock Bridge Road. The property is already zoned commercial (C-1) and a funeral home is an approved use under the city's zoning code.

The company is applying for an additional curb cut on Bell Road that would be farther east from the intersection with Medlock. The associated driveway with the funeral home would be outside the 75-foot impervious surface buffer of the stream east of the property.

Residents of The Reserve at Foxdale protested the rezoning based on cultural and religious reasons as well as concerns of flooding from the impervious footprint of the funeral home, parking lot and driveway.

Gulil Gulve, a Reserve at Foxdale resident, said as a Hindu, that a funeral home in such close proximity of their homes – there is a large Indian and Asian community living in the subdivision – would be unthinkable.

"It is considered impure for a Hindu to live next door to a funeral home," Gulve said. "After we attend a funeral, we must shower and have our clothes cleaned.

"Also, there is the adverse traffic impact of 30 or 40 cars in a funeral [procession] trying to get on Medlock Road. That would stop traffic on a road that is busy all the time, and has a lot of school buses on Bell Road."

The Reserve Homeowner Association President Ron Brodie also spoke against the funeral home use. He said property values would be affected by a business next door that uses toxic chemicals involved in embalming.

Brodie was also concerned about the disposal of human tissue on the premises and the possible cremation of bodies.

"We have a lot of Asians in our community who will not live next door to a funeral home. The sale of numerous homes in [The Reserve] would bring down our home values," Brodie said.

"The idea of creating the city of Johns Creek was to increase the quality of life for its citizens," he said. "That has not happened. The traffic is worse. The city wants to build more commercial [development], which just brings more traffic. That is not why we incorporated."

Resident Robert Fisher said the topography of the property slopes southwest. With the clear-cutting of trees and the impervious surface of the funeral home and parking lot, it would create a large amount of runoff that the stream would not always be able to handle.

"Right now, it is forested with tall trees, and the water stops there. There is only a 4-foot pipe for the intake of the stream to Sugar Mill. To clear-cut the property and compact the parking lot will cause flooding. There are 55 inches of rain in Johns Creek," Fisher said.

"There needs to be an engineering analysis," he said.

Planning Commission Chairman Steve Broadbent said he must remind the residents that funeral home is an approved use for the property as it is currently zoned. The request is to move the curb cut to the east end of the property.

"If they wanted to build the driveway on the west end, they would not even have to come before this body," Broadbent said. "The property is zoned O&I (office – institutional)."

The architect for the proposed development pointed out in rebuttal that the funeral home represented a less intense use of the property than most other uses. It would have only around 20 cars on the property during funerals.

Staff recommended approval of the driveway as the preferred curb cut to the property. Planning Commission recommended approval 4-2. Broadbent and Planning Commissioner Emmett Shaffer opposed it on the grounds of uncertainty about the effects of water runoff.

After the meeting, the residents were still angry and concerned about the idea of a funeral home next door.

"A Hindu should not live within sight of a funeral home. I will see it from my backyard," said Gulve. "As Hindus, we cannot consider this."

Chinese residents also have cultural and religious taboos about living near a funeral home.

Kefeng Chen said he had lived in his house 17 years, but if the funeral home is built, he will have to move.

"There is no doubt about that. I will move from my house," he said.

Opponents say they have 421 signatures to a petition opposing the funeral home and will soon have more online.

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Executive Editor, Appen Media.
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Tags: Community & Outreach

  1. report print email
    Protest
    November 14, 2013 | 12:12 PM

    Please do not build townhouse and funeral home in our community!

    Jenny
    Johns Creek
  2. report print email
    Do not build funeral home near housing community
    November 16, 2013 | 08:14 PM

    Please do not put pressure on our house values.

    Vijay Mudalegundi
    Cumming
  3. report print email
    I think it's fantastic!
    November 17, 2013 | 08:19 PM

    I have thought for so long that we need a funeral home up here. I personally think it's fantastic. We need the commercial taxes, the location is actually good and it is low density and will generate very little traffic. I think we are all considerate and caring enough not to get upset if an occassional funeral holds us up for two minutes as the prosession leaves. After all, we are still blessed to be alive. As a city, a county and a country, we do not, and should not make these types of decisions based on the religious or cultural preferences of people. The funeral home shouldn't have any negative impact on property values unless the residents of Foxdale get up and move in droves. If they do, they will be responsible for tanking the property values, not the funeral home. I'm not sure that will happen either. Inventory is still very low in Johns Creek. The people that have kept their yards, landscaping and home in good shape should have no trouble selling their homes for a good price.

    John Johnson
    Johns Creek
  4. report print email
    Funeral Home
    November 19, 2013 | 06:15 PM

    Dear John Johnson,

    As much as we appreciate your input we strongly disagree on a lot of your points.

    1) Traffic - have you seen how much traffic can be generated by a funeral procession - now think of this - since this is the only funeral home close by you have a lot of funerals during the day generating a lot of those processions. Now add in that Abbotts Bridge Road/141 and Bell/141 are very busy intersections. During rush hour traffic comes to a still stand. Now add a new subdivsion of 652 homes with the main entrance on Bell Road. There is nowhere for the residents to go. Traffic also backs up on Boles/Abbotts and Bell/Boles - it is terrible.

    2) If the trees that function as buffers are gone due to the new driveway there is no sound buffer to shield the homes from the traffic noise from 141 - and by the way this area is not a low residential area.

    And how would you feel having to look at a funeral home from your back window?

    I tend to believe that you are not really familiar with this area at all or you'd sing a different tune with all the latest approved zonings for additional subdivisions and mix-use land.

    Besides all the technical aspects that I won't get into here I want to let you know that this particular area is very high in Asian population - people who have lived here for over 15 years - they have built part of the community and quite frankly are responsible for the outstanding schools. Now they have been here - and this funeral home comes along - in Chinese, Korean and Hindu it is a taboo to live next to a funeral home.

    Now they have to pick up their belongings and have to sell their homes due to their beliefs and traditions.

    Would you want to loose half of your neighbors? How would your children feel if their friends would have no choice but move away? How do you explain that to them? What does this do to our schools?

    However, the funeral home owner and builder of this project has been very sensitive to this issue and is in dialogue with the residents.

    S. Smith
    Johns Creek
  5. report print email
    Funeral Home
    November 19, 2013 | 06:15 PM

    Dear John Johnson,

    As much as we appreciate your input we strongly disagree on a lot of your points.

    1) Traffic - have you seen how much traffic can be generated by a funeral procession - now think of this - since this is the only funeral home close by you have a lot of funerals during the day generating a lot of those processions. Now add in that Abbotts Bridge Road/141 and Bell/141 are very busy intersections. During rush hour traffic comes to a still stand. Now add a new subdivsion of 652 homes with the main entrance on Bell Road. There is nowhere for the residents to go. Traffic also backs up on Boles/Abbotts and Bell/Boles - it is terrible.

    2) If the trees that function as buffers are gone due to the new driveway there is no sound buffer to shield the homes from the traffic noise from 141 - and by the way this area is not a low residential area.

    And how would you feel having to look at a funeral home from your back window?

    I tend to believe that you are not really familiar with this area at all or you'd sing a different tune with all the latest approved zonings for additional subdivisions and mix-use land.

    Besides all the technical aspects that I won't get into here I want to let you know that this particular area is very high in Asian population - people who have lived here for over 15 years - they have built part of the community and quite frankly are responsible for the outstanding schools. Now they have been here - and this funeral home comes along - in Chinese, Korean and Hindu it is a taboo to live next to a funeral home.

    Now they have to pick up their belongings and have to sell their homes due to their beliefs and traditions.

    Would you want to loose half of your neighbors? How would your children feel if their friends would have no choice but move away? How do you explain that to them? What does this do to our schools?

    However, the funeral home owner and builder of this project has been very sensitive to this issue and is in dialogue with the residents.

    S. Smith
    Johns Creek
  6. report print email
    Protect the stream
    November 19, 2013 | 07:35 PM

    There is no valid reason why construction of the driveway should be allowed in the stream buffer area. Put the driveway somewhere else and preserve the buffer between the funeral home and the adjacent neighbors.

    An observer
    Johns Creek
  7. report print email
    Funeral Home
    November 28, 2013 | 12:20 PM

    I am absolutely opposed to this Funeral Home plan. John Johnson you echo all of my concerns and thoughts, I am deeply troubled and saddened by Johns Creek's government continually making 'bad' decisions, thus eroding the allure and value of living in the suburbs. If we wanted funeral homes and traffic in our residential living spaces we would live downtown. Johns Creek continues to put plans into place in the dead of night. Plans, that if in their backyard would most likely NOT be approved. The 652 subdivision planned off Bell Road is the just another example of the complete and bold lack of concern for the present TAX PAYING residents and our quality of life. I would be happy to sign any petitions against what threatens the quality of the life in Johns Creek. I can be reached at caelti240@yahoo,com Furthermore it would be my pleasure to participate in any protest that might make a difference or put a stop to the continued bone head moves of Johns Creek Planning Commission. I am being nice here...

    Cadice Timms
    Johns Creek
  8. report print email
    Funeral Home
    November 28, 2013 | 12:20 PM

    I am absolutely opposed to this Funeral Home plan. John Johnson you echo all of my concerns and thoughts, I am deeply troubled and saddened by Johns Creek's government continually making 'bad' decisions, thus eroding the allure and value of living in the suburbs. If we wanted funeral homes and traffic in our residential living spaces we would live downtown. Johns Creek continues to put plans into place in the dead of night. Plans, that if in their backyard would most likely NOT be approved. The 652 subdivision planned off Bell Road is the just another example of the complete and bold lack of concern for the present TAX PAYING residents and our quality of life. I would be happy to sign any petitions against what threatens the quality of the life in Johns Creek. I can be reached at caelti240@yahoo,com Furthermore it would be my pleasure to participate in any protest that might make a difference or put a stop to the continued bone head moves of Johns Creek Planning Commission. I am being nice here...

    Cadice Timms
    Johns Creek
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