Seawinds Crematory in Sebastian approved, again, for expansion

SEBASTIAN – Seawinds Funeral Home got the approval of the Planning and Zoning Committee to build a bigger crematorium.  Seawinds owner James Young was given permission by a 5-2 vote to build a crematorium double the size of his old one.

“I think both us and the Elks are glad we could come to an agreement,” said Young.

“We met this afternoon and we met again this evening,” said Elks Lodge President Charles DeLauder.  “We feel that it is within our best interest to accept the revisions.” There were several revisions made to the original plans that Seawinds had presented previously.

“The crematorium and chimneys will be on the north side of the building instead of the south side of the building,” said Seawinds attorney Buck Vocelle.  “There is going to be a 1 hour firewall in the chimney and a two hour-rated fire-resistant wall in between the funeral home and the Elks Lodge.”

“We believe the result is going to be a safer building,” he said.

Both chimneys will be protected with fire sprinklers – one protecting the top section of the chimney and the other the bottom. These sprinklers, once activated, would alert Indian River County Fire Rescue.

The 10-foot wall separating Seawinds and the Elks would also have fire sprinklers wired into the alarm system.

Fire Rescue Chief Brian Nolan approved the changes, and served as an expert consultant at the meeting.

“I know that the Elks club was very concerned about having another fire, we certainly don’t want a repeat performance of that,” said Nolan.  “We couldn’t require them to have sprinklers throughout the building, but instead decided to position them so that we’ll have two-head coverage on the chimneys.”

“Nobody had ever heard of sprinklers going into crematoriums,” Nolan added, “but we thought it was a good idea .We certainly don’t want any new fires.  We thought we’d also throw in a fire alarm system – when the sprinklers were triggered, the alarm will sound too.”

The enlistment of various experts has proved to be a blessing to the Seawinds project, as several groups have worked together to satisfy a lengthy safety checklist.

“It started out being a very simple project, but this is now a state-of-the-art building,” said Randy Mosby of Mosby-Smith Engineering.  “We’ve jumped through a bunch of hoops on this site plan, and we’ve come to an agreement with our neighbors.”

The most vocal opposition came from Sebastian businessman Damien Gilliams.

“This is not about the Elks, it’s about the community,” said Gilliams.  “This is about a crematorium and about burning flesh.  “There is a debate on whether or not this should even be in this location.”

During the first appearance of the project at the Planning and Zoning Committee, Elks members questioned the location of the larger crematorium, asking the committee to force Seawinds to relocate the structure elsewhere on the funeral home’s property.

When the committee approved Seawinds’ request to expand, the Elks Lodge appealed to the Sebastian City Council, which also heard arguments that a crematorium should not be located in a residential area, but an industrial one instead.

The council voted to send the funeral home’s request back to Planning and Zoning for further review.

Seawinds Funeral Home’s 450-square-foot single-furnace crematory burnt down in November while in operation. Elks members told planning officials that had the wind been traveling in the other direction, the flames from the crematory would have caught the lodge on fire – at a time when 100 bingo players were inside.

While both sides appeared to be satisfied with the Planning and Zoning Committee’s ruling, they do have the option to file an appeal, which would send the project back to the Sebastian City Council for another attempt to change the plans.

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