There goes the neighborhood

Crematory needs to stop fighting order to leave residential area Ð it shouldn't have been there in the first place

Living next door to uncooperative or unpleasant neighbors may be an unavoidable experience, but residents of Tonawanda are doing all they can to prevent a crematory from reopening in their neighborhood.

It’s a legal battle that shouldn’t exist in the first place – neither Tonawandan residents nor Amigone Funeral Home, the owners of the crematory, deserve much blame here.

Instead, it was the Erie County Legislature in 1991 that set this dilemma in motion, when it gave the funeral home permission to build the crematory in the densely populated, residential neighborhood along Sheridan Drive.

This original decision was an inexplicable oversight and has left residents of Tonawanda stuck living alongside the ash (and yes, that’s human ash), noise, soot and foul odors produced by the crematory. Not to mention a daily reminder of death – a far cry from an idyllic suburban lifestyle, to say the least.

The residents have every right to protest the crematory’s presence.

Accounts of attempted cookouts among less appetizing fumes and human ash building up on backyard swing sets are as persuasive as they are morbid.

This should be enough to convince the Amigone family, which operates the funeral home and crematory, to find a location more suitable than families’ backyards.

But in fairness, Amigone established its business in the area after obtaining the proper permission from the county. Amigone’s foresight could have been better, but the company was certainly not in the wrong.

Two years ago, Amigone agreed to shut down its facility, but now, the family seems unhappy with the status quo.

Amigone claims that the facility is now suitable to operate in the neighborhood, because it now exceeds regulations established by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The company plans to install a “state-of-the-art” filtration abatement system, which would reduce emissions by 30 percent, and which Amigone seems to believe will solve the problem.

But a 30 percent reduction in fumes and waste is 70 percent too low for a residential neighborhood.

The Erie County Legislature appears to agree. The Legislature, seemingly wiser than its 1991 counterpart, voted last week to revoke the designation allowing the facility to operate.

Residents may have breathed a sigh of relief at that point, but of course, it’s never that easy.

Amigone has hinted via its attorneys that it would sue if the Legislature’s decision didn’t go its way, according to The Buffalo News. Obviously, this sort of legal recourse is not the solution.

To sue the county would be time-consuming and expensive. It also makes the Amigone family look petty and uncooperative, when in reality, they’ve primarily just been trying to do the best they can with the bad hand they’ve been dealt.

After all, the Amigone family has attempted to relocate the crematory, but the state Cemetery Board and Supreme Court denied that request as well.

So now it’s time for a little compromise.

If the Amigone family doesn’t sue and agrees to maintain the cessation of operations on Sheridan Drive – a win for neighbors that should merit some leniency from the Board and the Supreme Court, so Amigone can operate elsewhere – a win for the family and a win for the county, which can avoid a lawsuit.

This situation shouldn’t have arisen to begin with, but now it’s time for all sides involved to move on – in life, and death.