Tari Dexter (left) and Bill Dexter inspect new equipment for their crematorium in Stanwood earlier this year. (Julia-Grace Sanders / The Herald)

Tari Dexter (left) and Bill Dexter inspect new equipment for their crematorium in Stanwood earlier this year. (Julia-Grace Sanders / The Herald)

Hearing examiner affirms: Crematorium allowed in Stanwood

A resident challenged the Stanwood hearing examiner’s decision. The request was denied.

STANWOOD — The Stanwood hearing examiner has affirmed an early December decision to allow a crematorium in downtown Stanwood after a resident challenged the ruling.

The examiner said Bill and Tari Dexter’s crematorium business is allowed under city codes as an accessory use to their funeral home. But on Dec. 13, Stanwood resident Peggy Kitting asked for reconsideration, arguing the examiner’s decision was flawed.

Her request was denied.

Kitting now has about two weeks to appeal the decision to Snohomish County Superior Court.

Business owner Bill Dexter worries the tug-of-war could last through January or longer.

“In my personal opinion, that’s what the competition is hoping for — to draw it out long enough so we run out of money from operating without the use of our crematory equipment,” he said.

His new crematorium equipment has sat unused since July. Earlier this month, he estimated he’s lost about $65,000 of business. He plans to pursue an insurance claim against the city to recover that loss.

The funeral home portion of their business has been in operation since October and is doing well, Dexter said.

Back in April, the city gave the Dexters the go-ahead to begin construction at their new business — a building with a funeral home, crematorium and office space. They chose a former window store on 271st Street NW.

But after a complaint that the crematorium would adversely affect the downtown shopping experience, the city put a hold on the renovation.

Stanwood ruled to allow the crematorium as an unclassified use, but that decision was appealed by Kitting.

That’s when the issue was sent to the hearing examiner.

In her request for reconsideration, Kitting questioned several aspects of the examiner’s decision she believes are wrong.

She argued the crematorium is a principal, rather than secondary, aspect of the Dexters’ business. She also wrote that cremation, like burning animals, should not be allowed downtown. In line with her original appeal, Kitting stated concerns about a crematorium’s emissions.

Dexter said the claims are incorrect. The output from cremating human remains is no more harmful than those from grilling red meat, he wrote in a response statement.

“All these chemicals occur naturally in our environment and we are susceptible to exposure through normal life,” he said.

Kitting said in an email she decided to request the hearing examiner decision be reconsidered “because it’s the right thing to do.”

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

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