MIDDLETOWN, NJ - Middletown community members once again, this time in greater numbers, voiced concerns about a proposed crematorium in Middletown’s Fairview section during the open comments portion Township Committee’s March 4th workshop meeting.
Before the open comments began, Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante announced that the township plans on starting a recycling awareness initiative in order to better inform the public on how recycling is supposed to work in Middletown and to reduce contamination of recycled materials.
Mercantante said the initiative will focus mainly on education rather than enforcement.
“Some communities have gone to very strict enforcement,” he said. “We don’t want to take that approach. We want to try to put out as much information as we can sot the public knows what they should and shouldn’t do in terms of recycling.”
Middletown Committeeman Anthony Fiore said cardboard is another factor in the recyclable contamination problem. but also said that it’s very hard for most local residents to recycle cardboard and other materials the right way.
“To be fair, I think education is a big step, but we’re not really making it that much easier for people either,” Fiore said. “You can’t single stream it (your recyclables). You have to sort out your glass, your (other recyclables), whatever you have to do. We have to make it easier for people.”
Kacynski said the town hopes to soon set up large recycling containers that will allow for residents to put all recycling materials into one bin (except cardboard and paper), which will be in a separate container.
“This should be set up within the next month or so,” he said.
Committeewoman Patrician Snell announced that since she recently found out that the Fairview Cemetery is currently appealing the denial of its crematorium application from the Zoning Board in court, and that she as a planning board member plans to file a motion to put the Cemetery’s other crematorium application, filed with the planning board, off the agenda while the courts decide on the Zoning Board application.
“There’s nothing that can really be done (with the proposed crematorium) while it’s in court,” she said.
Township Mayor Anthony Perry then reminded folks of the upcoming mobile town halls at the Lincroft Fire Station on March 12th and the Middletown Library on March 14th.
At the meeting’s open comments portion, numerous Middletown residents spoke out against the Fairview Cemetery’s proposed crematorium, including those who spoke in previous meetings such as Dan Minoli and Sharon Zeveney, as well as some new speakers.
Minoli said Zillow estimates the average home value in about 25 New Jersey towns and cities that Minoli said had crematoriums (such as Trenton, Paterson, Camden, etc.) to be about $207,000; compared to the statewide average of $335,000 and the Middletown Township average of about $426,000.
“Why do we want to join that group?,” Minoli said.
Minoli also said numerous past medical studies show that chemical emissions from crematoriums have harmful health effects on people, especially children; adding that these studies remain reliable today.
“We don’t need a paper that was published yesterday to show that Mercury is bad for our kids,” Minoli said.
Zeveney said she is very much opposed to, and surprised by, the idea of a crematorium being placed in her neighborhood because it’s a residential area with many children and young families, as well as Fairview Elementary School, Thompson Middle School, High School South, and Poricy Park.
“I personally, as a resident, would never even think that something like this would be built down the street from me,” she said. “I feel like if this goes through, I could be forced out of my home. There’s no way I’m living next to a crematorium.”
Julian Eyles, another Township resident, said he would find it hard to explain to his children how a crematorium that would potentially burn thousands of bodies a year, mostly from out-of-town, could be allowed in the Fairview neighborhood; but not a flower shop, bicycle store, a musical arts center, or an ice-cream parlor.
“I don’t know how I’ll be able to explain that to my kids in a few years’ time,” he said.
Local resident Helmuth Meditz, said he remembers when during the 9/11 attacks, some people said there would not be a major health crisis coming from all the resulting smoke and dust.
“We remember what the EPA said, no problem,” Meditz said. “Well, the problem occurred over the years when my friends started dying of cancer, and now you have the lawsuits. I hope Middletown doesn’t repeat the same problem.”
Local resident Dennis Guidera said that at first he couldn’t believe that the crematorium was actually a serious plan.
“When I first heard they were proposing to build a crematorium three or four hundred feet from my home, I’m thinking this must be some kind of joke, this cannot be for real,” he said. “What I expect come the (next) planning board meeting (where the crematorium application will be heard) is that there will be thousands of people protesting this crazy scenario.”
Mercantante said that during the planning board hearing, residents wishing to express their concerns on the crematorium’s potential dangers should bring in concrete evidence to support them, as they are required by law to base their decisions on exert testimony and documented evidence and objective facts.
“You can’t just say I’m pretty sure it’s bad for us,” he said. “You have to be able to provide evidence coming from somebody who is an expert. You have to have expert testimony to deal with the planning board."