Naples leaders look to clear way to allow funeral home along U.S. 41

City of Naples Mayor John Sorey on NewsMakers 03-18-12.

City of Naples Mayor John Sorey on NewsMakers 03-18-12.

"People who come to funerals dine out and things," Naples Mayor John Sorey said. "It adds another economic benefit to the city."

— Naples is changing the rules to entice a new funeral home and crematory business to choose the city over unincorporated Collier County for its new location.

Mayor John Sorey directed city staff last month to draft changes to ordinances that didn't previously allow funeral homes to operate along U.S. 41 in the highway commercial zone in Naples.

"People who come to funerals dine out and things," Sorey said. "It adds another economic benefit to the city."

Sorey and city staff wouldn't release the name of the interested funeral home business or its entrepreneurs because nothing has been formalized or submitted in a public record. The owners have yet to purchase or lease property in the city or submit formal proposals.

On Wednesday, the city's Planning Advisory Board recommended approval of the changes that will go into effect after two required council votes on May 2 and May 16. The changes will allow funeral homes as a conditional use, meaning council and staff will have the opportunity to tweak and approve all proposals for such operations.

Funeral homes have for years been permitted in the Naples downtown district, but none has been in operation since the Pittman funeral home in the heart of downtown closed years ago, Senior Planner Adam Benigni said.

"It's not that intense of a use what these two guys are proposing," Benigni said of the new funeral home. "They're looking at a smaller facility with more of a storefront but they would have a crematory."

There is no apparent rationale for why funeral homes haven't been permitted along U.S. 41 in the highway commercial zoning district, city staff members said.

There is no apparent rationale for why funeral homes haven't been permitted along U.S. 41 in the highway commercial zoning district, city staff members said.

"It's an easy fix, but it's time-consuming," City Manager Bill Moss said.

Modern crematories aren't imposing structures, said Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America.

"They're very clean operations. Yes, there is a smoke stack but it won't look any different than a chimney on a house," she said. "And it will release far fewer ash and particulates into the air than a wood-burning fireplace ... your local Burger King releases more than a crematorium will in its lifetime."

Crematories are smaller than they once were, often the size of a home garage, Kemmis said. New emissions standards and technologies make them more environmentally friendly.

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