Commission Supports Text Amendment

BERLIN – The Berlin Planning Commission voted last week to support a text amendment that would allow a local funeral home to open a crematorium in town.

The commission voted unanimously last Wednesday to give a favorable recommendation to a text amendment that would allow a crematorium as a conditional use in the M-1A light industrial district. The amendment has been proposed by Kirk Burbage of Burbage Funeral Home for property he owns off Main Street Extended near its intersection with Worcester Highway.

“His business has changed dramatically over the years,” said Joel Todd, Burbage’s attorney. “At this point more than 70% of the funerals he handles involve cremations.”

Todd told the commission the text amendment would add a subsection to the code to define crematorium and allow it as a conditional use in the light industrial district. He said Burbage ran the oldest family-owned funeral home in Maryland and had decades of experience in the industry. While cremation was initially less common, now the practice is used by most of Burbage’s clients.

“He wants to be able to keep the cremation business in the Town of Berlin,” Todd said. “He was born and raised here, he thinks highly of this town. He’d rather keep the business here.”

Todd said Burbage wanted to build a crematorium on property he owned near Route 113. The area is primarily rural and Todd said the nearest occupied property was Sonrise Church.

“We think it’s an ideal location there,” he said.

Todd said that the cremation process would not have any impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

“There’s a holding chamber within the furnaces so that no odors are emitted,” he said. “It’s completely clean. It’s as perfectly clean as is humanly possible.”

Planning Director Dave Engelhart said the text amendment, which is not site specific, would allow a crematorium as a conditional use, meaning it would require approval from the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

“It wouldn’t be a use by right every time,” Engelhart said. “Each individual use would need to go before the board of zoning appeals and be granted a conditional use. They would review the impact on adjoining properties.”

Todd noted that in Burbage’s case, there were several steps left to go before building if the text amendment is eventually approved by the town council.

“We have to start off with getting this language changed so that it can be an authorized use if we establish the appropriate circumstances when we make the application,” he said.

The commission voted unanimously to forward the amendment on to the town council with a favorable recommendation.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.