Sebastian resident challenges Seawinds crematory’s approval

SEBASTIAN — A Sebastian resident has filed an appeal against the approved expansion of the Seawinds Funeral Home crematorium. The project will once again go before the Sebastian City Council for review.

“I’m always in that vicinity,” resident and business owner Damien Gilliams said, explaining why he chose to appeal the expansion. He believes that the crematorium should not be built on the funeral home’s property, regardless of its size.

Instead, Gilliams argues the crematorium should be relocated to an industrial area.

“Can’t they find a better place for this thing?” Gilliams asked.

Seawinds Funeral Home wants to build a larger, 980-square-foot crematorium and add a second furnace after a fire destroyed the original facility in November last year. Earlier this month, the city’s planning board approved the expansion with various conditions to address safety concerns from the Elks Lodge next door.

“I thought it was a done deal,” Elks Lodge President Charles DeLauder said when notified of the filed appeal.

DeLauder said that the Elks will have to discuss what they want to do about the appeal. They might choose to side with Seawinds before the Sebastian City Council to protect the agreement the two groups had hashed out.

Vero Beach attorney Buck Vocelle, who is representing Seawinds Funeral Director and owner James Young, said that he was aware of the appeal but had not yet spoken with Young about the development.

Until then, he said, he would have no comment.

The deal struck between Seawinds and the Elks included changing the crematorium’s layout. The furnaces and chimneys would located on the north side of the building, farther away from the shared property line. The chimneys would also have one-hour fire rated walls and a two-hour firewall between the funeral home and the Elks Lodge.

Both chimneys would be equipped with fire sprinklers that would alert Indian River County Fire Rescue if activated. There would also be a 10-foot wall separating the two properties. That would also be equipped with fire sprinklers wired into the alarm system.

Gilliams said he did not choose to appeal the expansion because of the Elks or the agreement between the organization and the funeral home.

He said that he feels his voice wasn’t heard and he did not receive his full due process during the last hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission. After that hearing, he said he tried to find out from city staff what code rules allow the crematorium on that site.

Gilliams said he didn’t receive a satisfactory explanation.

He said his arguments are based on both city code and concern over the public’s health, welfare and safety.

Gilliams said it was “mismanagement” that caused the crematorium to burn down, something, “we’re taking too lightly.”

He also voiced concern over the smell coming from the crematorium prior to its destruction and what he believes to be a devaluation of his nearby commercial and residential properties.

He said that if the Sebastian City Council chooses to uphold the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval of the expansion, he is considering taking the matter to the Indian River County Circuit Court for an impartial judge to decide.

“I feel bad for Seawinds,” Gilliams said. “It’s nothing personal.”

When the appeal will go before the Sebastian City Council was not immediately known. The next meeting is scheduled for April 14, but the appeal is not on the agenda.

The next possible meeting the item could be placed on the agenda would be May 12.

Related Articles

Comments are closed.