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Funeral home eyes spot for crematorium in SoBo

Powell Funeral Home in South Boston is making plans for the construction of a crematorium near its present location, with rezoning of property located at 1354 Broad St. the first step.

That is the proposed location of the crematory, the construction of which is an expensive proposition, according to Robert Powell, vice-president for Powell Funeral Home.

A public hearing on Powell Funeral Home’s rezoning request is set for Wednesday’s meeting of the South Boston Planning Commission.

The property in question faces Broad Street, but the crematory will be built in such a way as to be esthetically pleasing, said Powell, adding the crematory would not be visible from Broad Street.

“It will be tastefully done,” added Powell.

Plans for the crematory currently are in the design and pricing phase, and the project must clear several environmental and safety hurdles before construction can proceed, according to Powell.

“It’s not cheap,” he noted, explaining it will take anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 for one essential part of the crematory, in addition to more money for additional infrastructure, including processors, smokestack and the building itself.

The project must comply with both EPA and OSHA regulations, Powell added.

“We want to get rezoning and consider costs and go from there,” Powell said.

The funeral home owner said Powell’s eventually plans to build the crematorium, but this is just “a first step.”

The option of cremation has gained popularity nationwide in recent years, primarily due to a growing shortage of available land for interment of deceased individuals.

A proposal to develop a columbarium in Halifax Memorial Gardens Cemetery received positive feedback during a public hearing held last July.

The town received letters from three funeral homes in support of the columbarium project including Powell Funeral Home, Brooks Funeral Home and Jeffress Funeral Home.

Leslie W. Powell III, president of Powell Funeral Home, wrote in his letter of support that the option of cremation is gaining popularity as the choice for final disposition of human remains.

“At present, our cremation volume is approaching 25 percent of our total volume of cases we handle each year,” Powell said.

Town staff estimated it would cost $50,000 to develop a space to house up to 400 niches when the columbarium project moved forward.

Town staff, area funeral homes and a South Boston monument company had been discussing for several years the timing and location of a columbarium into which an urn or urns containing the cremated remains of deceased persons is placed for permanent interment.

Town Public Works Director Alan Auld subsequently developed a design for a columbarium area for Halifax Memorial Gardens at an entrance to the cemetery off Tabernacle Trail.

Costs to develop the area were estimated at approximately $50,000, with funding coming from the cemetery trust fund.

Construction of the columbarium is now nearing completion.