Two weeks ago the Jordan City Council, acting on advice of the city’s planning commission passed an amended conditional use permit for a local business. The amendment allows resomation — an environmentally friendly body disposal process using pressurized, heated water and lye to reduce a body to liquid and softened bones. The liquid is flushed to the sewer system. Bones are pulverized and returned to the family (or disposed of by some other means such as dispersal, or interment).
No significant conditions were placed on the CUP at Planning Commission, or City Council levels. Understand — what’s not restricted by conditions or law is permitted. The amended CUP contains no conditions regarding discharge to the city sewer system, number of disposals per any time period, nature of tissue disposed of, or service area allowed.
So transporting bodies from anywhere, in any number, to Jordan is permitted. Animal carcasses too. The applicant may draw and release any amount of water and effluent. And the applicant may release the effluent into the sewer system any way he chooses (in this case, via floor drain).
The applicant’s spokesman said each resomation will use up to 320 gallons of water, and take about five hours. Remember, what’s not proscribed is permitted. That means up to four resomations per day, using 1,280 gallons of water. Will that happen? Who knows. But the Council and Planning Commission said it’s OK. No consideration was given to what impact such water usage and effluent purging would have on neighboring homes. It’s like having the neighborhood water lines flushed every day — with yellow sediment constantly being jarred loose. And with a very real possibility of effluent backing up into nearby basements.
The Council’s deliberations included one double-duh moment. A staff member said there are no policies in place that prevent the applicant from being a large water user.
The first duh? Well, yeah, that’s what conditions on a CUP are for. The second duh? Um, I’m enjoined from watering my lawn on even-numbered days? Isn’t that a city policy?
I asked during public comment if members of the audience would be allowed to address the Council during deliberations on the CUP. I was told the “audience was allowed to address the Planning Commission at the hearing which you attended.” This from Councilor Robert Whipps, to whom I was not addressing my question. It’s customary for public comments to be addressed only to the meeting chair — in this case, the mayor. It’s not customary for councilors to directly address commentators, which eats into their three minutes. To the mayor’s credit, she permitted me to spill over a little bit.
During deliberations on the CUP, the applicant and his representative were invited to address the Council. Odd, since they were at the Planning Commission hearing, too. I guess the Council is sending us a message about how important it is to publicly consider all sides of an issue.
No worries though. I provided copies of my proposed conditions to the Council at the meeting, and to six council members via email. (An interesting aside, I got no response from recipients of the email.)
Councilor Jeff Will mentioned one condition I suggested, asking the applicant’s representative for clarification about a closed effluent sewer line. The representative said no plumbing was planned, that effluent would go to a floor drain. Then he said installing a closed effluent line is no big deal if the city wanted to set such a condition.
Will didn’t ask for an additional condition to require “no big deal” closed effluent discharge.
I suggested 13 reasonable conditions for allowing resomation in Jordan. Nobody has informed me why any of those conditions are irrelevant or not applicable.
Changing course a bit, several days before the meeting, a local resident asked the city for copies of annual examinations of compliance to the existing CUP. What’s the importance, you ask?
One condition on the original CUP from August of 2010 is: “The funeral home will only use the crematory for its own clients.”
In my opinion, this condition is not met.
The applicant has cremated bodies from Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Scott, Stearns, Douglas, Ramsey, Wright, Blue Earth, LeSueur, Meeker, Olmsted, Washington, Anoka, Rice, Mower, Brown, Mille Lacs, Sibley, Steele, Aitkin, Crow Wing, and Saint Louis counties.
Council, staff, and the Planning Commission know about this.
I’m curious. Why has the city done nothing?
The Quote: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.” -George Washington