Zoning board conditionally approves building crematorium at funeral home in Baltimore’s Govans

Zoning board conditionally approves building crematorium at funeral home in Baltimore’s Govans
·2 min read

Baltimore’s Municipal and Zoning Appeals board approved, with conditions, the building of a crematorium at Vaughn Greene Funeral Services in Northeast Baltimore’ Govans neighborhood by a vote of 3-1 Tuesday.

The zoning board’s decision requires Vaughn Greene to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Govans residents by Nov. 16 setting conditions on its addition of a crematorium to the York Road funeral home, said Kathleen Byrne, the board’s acting executive director.

What conditions could be included in a memorandum of understanding and who Vaughn Greene should negotiate with remained unclear. Byrne did not return a respond to a subsequent request for comment.

Approval from the zoning board was needed before the Maryland Department of the Environment, which has final say, could act. The crematorium would be in the same funeral home where the wake for Freddie Gray, who died from injuries sustained in police custody in 2015, was held.

Cremating the human body — which releases pollutants, such as particulates — involves a large amount of fuel, according to California-based nonprofit Green Burial Council, and “results in millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.”

Neighbors say they’re worried because in Baltimore, nearly 24,000, or 20%, of children have asthma, according to a report by the Abell Foundation released last year. That is twice the national rate of 9%.

Vaughn Greene welcomed the zoning board’s decision in a statement: “Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has the highest respect for our neighbors and the communities we serve; we also have the highest respect for the zoning board’s approval of the application on the merits and its thorough work over the last several months at the three public hearings with 10 plus hours of public testimony and many, many pages of formal briefs.”

However, Cindy Camp, who lives in Govans, said the board’s decision doesn’t reflect that all lives matter.

“I definitely know if this was a predominantly white community, the outcome would have been different,” Camp wrote in a text.

Christopher Forrest, president of York Road Partnership and Winston Govans Neighborhood Improvement Association, said in an interview he’s disappointed. Govans is a marginalized community — people felt a decision was made even prior to Tuesday’s meeting, he said.

“That’s why many people of color don’t protest — don’t spend their time because they feel the end result is gonna be where the money is,” he said.

Neither Camp nor Forrest addressed the need for Vaughn Greene to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with neighbors.

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