Cremation, Regulations

New York Senate, Assembly pass exemption to move crematory

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From time to time over the past couple of years Funeral Director Daily has written articles about the Amigone Funeral Home crematory in Tonawanda, New York.  The crematory is part of a funeral home in a residential neighborhood where neighbors have complained for years.

Legislation was recently passed in New York that would, when signed by Governor Cuomo, amend New York State law, which prohibits “the construction of new combination funeral home-crematories, and the relocation of those that opened prior to the establishment of this law.”  Under this new exemption, Amigone Funeral Home would be able to relocate the crematory to a non-residential area, pending the approval of the town.

Moving the crematory off the current location has been something the Town Board has been working with state officials on for over a decade according to this article from WGRZ.  State Senator Sean Ryan said this about the new law, “Allowing Amigone to relocate their crematory to a non-residential neighborhood creates a rare win-win situation. The residents of the Town of Tonawanda get their neighborhood cleaned up and a local business gets to continue operating under its current business model.”

The Amigone Funeral Home crematory on Sheridan Avenue was shut down in 2012 upon complaints from neighbors.  A judge allowed it re-opened in 2016 under new emission standards, but it was closed again in September 2020 when a pollution control system failed releasing black smoke into the air.

Related:  Area local seeking zoning amendment to open business in OCJeffersonian Democrat (PA)

Funeral Director Daily take:  I’m of the opinion that the zoning and approval of funeral homes and crematories will continue to face more and more scrutiny.  The history that has seen beautiful former residences turned into mortuaries and potential crematories added on will soon be a thing of the past with stricter and stricter zoning laws.

Many municipalities in our country are no longer willing to give zoning variances to funeral homes and/or crematories to operate out of areas zoned exclusively for business and industrial uses.  In some ways it is a sign of the times as funeral homes and crematories are no longer “homes” where the funeral director lives above them and are modern businesses.

Anderson Funeral Home
1929- 1933 (Vacated)
Now a Bed and Breakfast

Back in 1929 our family funeral home moved out of the retail furniture establishment it was founded in and into a beautiful home remodeled to become our family’s first “stand-alone” funeral facility.  It was in a very exclusive area of the town and many residents didn’t like the idea of a funeral home in their neighborhood and filed suit claiming the funeral home, and its traffic, were a “nuisance” in the area.

The suit was finally settled in 1933 at the Minnesota Supreme Court with Justice Loring writing the affirming opinion, that even if zoned into a neighborhood, a funeral home could be a nuisance to its neighbors.  Our funeral home was forced to vacate that neighborhood and moved to the other side of town, into what I would term a more “blue-collar” neighborhood.

I never got to visit with my grandfather over the case because he had died before I was born, however, I have the entire trial transcript in a bound book.  I like to chalk the knowledge of the case to “it’s interesting how things work out.”

My great-grandfather was an immigrant in Minnesota when lots of immigrants from Scandinavian countries were arriving in the 1870s.  He was trained as a cabinet maker and, I assume, a hard working blue-collar guy.  I sometimes think my grandfather wanting to locate the funeral home in the wealthier side of town was his announcement that he had “done well” even though he had blue-collar roots.

In the end, being moved out of that neighborhood and into the “blue-collar” neighborhood might have been the best thing that happened for business in our family.  My grandfather, my father, and even myself felt much more comfortable over the years with the farm families and the blue-collar families than we ever did with the community elites. . . . .and we prospered from the business that we received from the farm and blue-collar communities.  I’ve always looked at losing this court case as a blessing in disguise.

Here is the summary of our case once it reached the Minnesota Supreme Court.  I find this quote interesting, realizing it was a finding of Justice Loring in 1933, “The finding of the court that maintenance of defendant’s funeral home in the vicinity of the plaintiffs’ residences depreciates their value and interferes with the free use and comfortable enjoyment of the residences as homes is sustained by the evidence. The court’s conclusion that the zoning ordinance which attempts to permit maintenance of such nuisance is void is sustained by the findings.” 

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One Comment

  1. Enjoyed the read. This is interesting!

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