Funeral home sought for former Masonic temple in Aurora

Ken Lahmers
Correspondent
Middlefield funeral home operators want to open a funeral home in the former Masonic Temple, built in 1968, on West Pioneer Trail.

AURORA – A funeral home could operate in the former Masonic Temple building on West Pioneer Trail in front of the high school if the planning commission and City Council approve a conditional zoning certificate for a comparable use.

Gary and Tracey Best, who operate Best Funeral Home in Middlefield, want to provide funeral services to the Aurora community, and are seeking to purchase the former Masonic Temple.

At the planning panel’s Nov. 4 session, the Bests claimed a funeral home is similar to a cemetery or place of worship, which are conditionally permitted in a residential zoning district.

Aurora’s W.K. Ricksecker Masonic Lodge 606 existed from 1909 until 2019, when it merged with Kent’s Rockton Lodge 316. Rockton’s home since 1923 is a mansion just west of downtown Kent built by Marvin S. Kent in 1880.

The former Aurora lodge building is in an R-3 residential zoning district. To be used as a funeral home, the Bests would need a conditional approval. The two-level building was erected in 1968, and the 1.38-acre property includes a 100-car parking lot.

The building is surrounded by property used for municipal and school purposes.

“The parking lot, large meeting room upstairs and dining area downstairs are a perfect setup for a funeral home,” said Best. “Obtaining a variance or rezoning for the property is ideal to serve Aurora’s funeral needs.”

This map shows the location of the building that has been proposed as a funeral home. The city’s Walker Building is to the left and Aurora High parking lots are at bottom and far right.

Best said the closest funeral homes to Aurora are in Bainbridge Township, Twinsburg, Chagrin Falls, Mantua and Streetsboro. A few years ago, Ferfolia Funeral Home of Sagamore Hills proposed building a facility at Route 82 and Bissell Road, but that never materialized.

“The property never should have been zoned R-3, according to the zoning code,” said Best. “The time has come to fix what should have been resolved a long time ago. Statistics from the health department prove it would be an immediate economic impact to the community, schools and especially other businesses.”

A couple of planning panelists expressed concerns about traffic around the property since a lot of cars and buses travel to and from the high school, Veterans Stadium and Harmon School at certain times of the day.

Best said funeral services usually take place between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and that would not conflict with school starting and ending times. Visitation hours are usually in the afternoon and evening.

When told that the building’s parking lot is used extensively during AHS football games, ball games across West Pioneer Trail and for July 4 festivities, Best said he would have no problem with the public using the lot during non-business hours.

The panel accepted the CZC application for study, and scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. Chairwoman Kathi Grandillo said she would be interested to see what school officials and the public might have to say about the proposal.

OTHER BUSINESS

The panel OK’d a lot split for 3.03 acres of city-owned land at 896 E. Pioneer Trail, which Council recently approved selling to Bill and Stephanie Fellenstein for $144,000.

The property contains a house and three outbuildings. The Fellensteins have lived there for many years as “caretakers” since Bill is the city’s parks coordinator.

Planning-Zoning-Building Director Denise Januska said the city still will own some property with frontage on East Pioneer Trail, which connects with the Sunny Lake property to the south.

Also accepted for study was the final plat for the Renaissance Park at Geauga Lake East Phase I-B on the north side of Treat Road. The 70-acre Pulte Homes phase includes 30 single-family lots, and is east of the railroad tracks behind Phase I-A along Treat.

Another phase of the east subdivision lies between Phase I-B and the railroad tracks. Pulte spokesman Jim O’Connor said some homes will be built on slabs and some will have basements, while some will have side-entrance garages and others front entrances.

Contact the newspaper at 330-541-9433, or auroraadvocate@recordpub.com.

CUTLINES

Courtesy of Aurora Planning-Zoning Dept.

This map shows the location of the building that has been proposed as a funeral home. The city’s Walker Building is to the left and Aurora High parking lots are at bottom and far right.