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'Who's cooking?' Why these retirees don't want a crematory in their backyard

Residents along Wellspring Drive could see a funeral home and crematory built behind their houses under a new rezoning.
Residents along Wellspring Drive could see a funeral home and crematory built behind their houses under a new rezoning.

What's cooking in your backyard? For some residents, the concern is that the question may soon be "who's cooking?"

A rezoning request that passed first reading by Horry County Council Tuesday would allow a funeral home and crematory right next to a retirement community. The residents of the 55-and-up community Lakeside Crossing aren't thrilled at the idea.

The property that's being rezoned to allow funeral homes and crematories along Myrtle Ridge Drive butts right up to the neighborhood full of retirees.

"Why would you put it in built up area?" said Lakeside resident Jim Bellis, 69. "Maybe this guy thinks he’s got a ready market here, and to me, that’s even worse. What, throw the body over the wall? A funeral home could go anywhere."

Lakeside resident Neil Hibben, 64, said the plan was "insensitive."

"Are they gonna give us coupons for a discount to get cremated?" he said. "All of us have physical problems, I mean we’re all a mess, and now we’re gonna see the crematorium that they want to put us in. We didn’t buy in here to be on a downer every time we pull in. We’re at the beach, man, we want to feel like we’re still viable."

Lakeside Crossing 2
Residents of retirement community Lakeside Crossing aren't happy about a proposed rezoning to put a crematory next to the neighborhood.

Council Chair Mark Lazarus said he would have to look at the rezoning more closely to "see what the real issues could be there."

According to county documents, the plan to put the crematory next to the retirement community is "in compliance with the comprehensive plan, and the good of the public welfare."

But Hibben said the community is "up in arms", and he has about 50 people who want to show up in opposition to the plan at the second reading of the rezoning request in two weeks. He said he has a petition against the rezoning with around 150 signatures.

Steve Strickland of Earworks Group in Murrells Inlet, the company representing the landowner, said he understands the concern from residents, and first listened to complaints at a planning commission meeting.

"They had received a comment from someone in the community that spoke about the smell of death," Strickland said. "There’s a lot of fear involved with getting old and passing away. There’s nothing that anyone can do about that. It’s scary as hell, it scares me."

Strickland said the modern-day funeral homes and crematories don't emit smoke or any noticeable smell.

"It’s run at such a high temperature and high tech piece of equipment that what somebody may have smelled 10, 20, 30 years ago, it’s not comparable," Strickland said, adding that the location was chosen because it was centrally located.

But that's not good enough for Hibben.

"The thing is, you’re gonna see a heat plume, no matter what they say," Hibben said. "And every time you see it, you’re gonna say 'Who’s cooking?'"

The other issue is traffic.

Hibben said Myrtle Ridge Drive is crowded because of the nearby Walmart, and he's worried about funeral processions.

"They’re gonna be creeping out of here," he said. "It could take us forever to get out of here. This thing is a traffic nightmare waiting to happen."

Strickland said the funeral home would bring less traffic than other potential uses for the property.

"There’s not a whole bunch of traffic associated with the funeral home," Strickland said. "And when they do have traffic, they will generally have police there to help guide them from getting in and out."

Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian

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