Tonawanda News

September 5, 2013

Amigone backs off plan

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Amigone withdrew a request Wednesday to move its crematory to the other side of the company’s Sheridan Drive property, Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick confirmed.

In July, the company asked the Erie County Legislature to hold a hearing on moving the operation to the corner of Parker Boulevard and Sheridan Drive — just a few hundred feet away from its current location. 

Amigone’s attorney, Robert Knoer, said that although the move would have been costly, the relocation would have created more distance between the crematory and residents who have complained of noxious odors.

In order for Amigone to move the crematory, the Erie County Legislature would first have to designate that area as cemetery land, even though the company already owns it. A public hearing on the potential move was set for Monday.

But Wednesday, Hardwick said he received a letter from Knoer withdrawing the request and canceling the hearing. 

“After meeting with the neighbors and hearing from people who had canvassed the neighborhood, Amigone determined that the neighbors are not supportive of the proposal. Since the neighbors did not support of the move the request by Amigone for a designation of cemetery land was withdrawn,” Knoer wrote in an email. 

Residents who live near the crematory did not respond well to the possibility of the reopening of a crematory on the Sheridan Drive property. Bill Pilkington, who has lived on the street behind Amigone for more than 40 years, said he disapproved of the proposed relocation.

“The bottom line is that it is not going to change anything,” he said. “It is still going to be letting out smoke, soot and odors that are horrible ... it should have never been there in the first place.”

Rebecca Newberry of the citizen group the Clean Air Coalition said residents are now worried Amigone will reopen the crematory at its original location.  The organization has been working with the town board to craft a resolution in opposition to the resumption of the operation. 

“A majority, but not all of the board members, have been verbally supportive,” she said.

Newberry said she hopes the measure will be on the agenda Monday when the board holds its next meeting.

The discussions concerning the future of the crematory come more than a year after Amigone signed an agreement with the state attorney general’s office agreeing to halt crematory operations for six months. The agreement came amid resident complaints about noxious smells and alleged sicknesses from the crematory’s emissions.

When the contract was signed, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said he reserved the right to file charges against Amigone if the company began using the crematory. He instructed the company to find a way to reduce emissions or move the operation.

Then, in early 2013 after the agreement expired, Amigone attempted to move the crematory to Cooper Avenue. Although the area is closer to the town’s industrial zone, residents in that area took issue with the plan.

Those residents’ fears were alleviated when the state cemetery board ruled that Amigone couldn’t move the crematory.

In the state’s determination, the board said that combined funeral entities and crematories were prohibited in a decision in 1998, but Amigone’s Sheridan Drive location was grandfathered in.

“This provision only permits the funeral entity to continue to operate the same crematory it was operating before that date,” the board stated.

As a result, the board said that under the law, there is “no authority for moving a crematory operation to a new location.”

Amigone then challenged the state decision, but in March, it was upheld by Erie County Supreme Court Justice John Michalek — putting the funeral home company in a state of limbo. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.