STANWOOD — A contested crematorium in a historic section of downtown Stanwood has received the green light to open up shop.
Back in April, the city gave Bill and Tari Dexter the go-ahead to begin construction on their new business — a building with a funeral home, crematorium and office space. But after a complaint that the crematorium would adversely affect the downtown shopping experience, the city put a hold on the renovation.
Last week, the Stanwood hearing examiner issued a decision that allows the crematorium to exist as an accessory use to the funeral home.
That’s different than what city planner Amy Rusko determined in an August review, which stated the crematorium would be an allowed use under city code.
In early April, the Dexters started looking at the former window store on 271st Street Northwest as a potential spot for their business. They wanted to upgrade from their location in Arlington so they could have offices and a crematorium at one location, instead of contracting out for cremation services.
The couple lived in Stanwood years ago, and Dexter said they were excited to be a part of the community once again.
Since the city code didn’t specify crematoriums as an allowed use, he double-checked with the city.
“Just to be clear, I contacted the city before I got locked into the property,” he said.
On April 5, Rusko wrote a letter to the Dexters saying that “a funeral home and crematorium would be allowed under Chapter 17.30 Permitted Uses of the Stanwood Municipal Code …”
With that go-ahead, Dexter finalized a lease for the building and got to work. He started an extensive remodel and ordered the equipment for cremating human remains.
Then, Stanwood received a complaint about the project claiming the city had made a mistake in considering the crematorium portion of the project as an allowed use.
The hearing examiner made the final call, finding that a stand-alone crematory is not allowed in Stanwood’s downtown under current city code, but it is as an accessory use with certain parameters. Those include limiting the crematory to only one cremation chamber and requiring the crematory stack to be screened or enclosed.
Those limitations won’t impact their business, Dexter said. He voluntarily enclosed the stack and has just one chamber.
“I think the decision was very thorough,” Dexter said.
His new crematorium equipment has sat unused since July. Dexter estimates he’s lost about $65,000 of business. He plans to pursue an insurance claim against the city to recover that loss.
Peggy Kitting, who filed the appeal against the city’s decision to allow the crematorium, said she’s disappointed in the hearing examiner’s report.
“We believe that he disregarded the testimony of the witnesses,” she said in an email.
There is a 10 business-day window to appeal the decision. Kitting said she’s considering appealing, but is undecided.
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.