Redmon makes second attempt to bring cremation to Stow
A Stow funeral home is working with the city to prepare for the rising preference for cremation over burial.
Currently, Stow prohibits cremation inside city limits, forcing local funeral homes to work with third-party providers in neighboring communities.
Keith Redmon, president of Redmon Funeral Home on Darrow Road, tried to change that in 2012 when he asked the city to allow his business to cremate bodies on site. He was met with intense opposition from residential neighbors and ultimately withdrew his request.
Eight years later, Redmon now is proposing that crematories be permitted as a principal, stand-alone use in an industrial district in the northwest quadrant of the city near East Steels Corner Road, state Route 8 and Allen Road.
"We feel strongly that a funeral home should be able to offer what today's consumers are requesting. It makes sense that a funeral home should be able to operate a crematory," Redmon said.
While Redmon has seen cremations plateau at about 50% of death arrangements in recent years, the National Funeral Directors Association is projecting cremations to rise to 56% this year and to 78.4% by 2040. Ohio's cremation rates are projected slightly below the national average with 52.8% this year, and 76.5% by 2040.
Melissa Sullivan, executive director of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association, said cremations are typically preceded by a service or celebration of life, just like traditional burials.
"I think it's partly that families are mobile, so they're not so inclined to visit a cemetery. Some of it is cost, some of it is society being a little less traditional than it has been. There's less church attendance, and that certainly affects funerals, and then families are more spread out," Redmon said.
The national association also attributes the rise in cremations to environmental concerns, a desire for simpler ceremonies and fewer religious prohibitions.
Redmon said he has no intention of purchasing land or building a crematory in the near future but wants to have it as an option. He added that his push is not for economics, as it is ultimately cheaper to work with third parties rather than operate crematories, but rather convenience — both for his funeral home and the families they serve.
Eight years ago, neighbors were more concerned with emissions, which Sullivan said is a common, though unfounded, concern.
"All of these equipment manufacturers have compliance and restrictions that they adhere to, and that they also want to adhere to. Because there are so few manufacturers, you don't have a multitude of discrepancy in quality and adherence. I would feel good about whatever company a funeral home choses," she said.
There are only a handful of companies that manufacture cremation equipment, one of which is Facultatieve Technologies whose only North American operation is located in Medina.
In the region, Kent, Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Green and Hudson allow cremation facilities within funeral homes or mortuaries, according to city Planning Director Rob Kurtz. Wadsworth, Munroe Falls and Mayfield Heights do not. Barberton, Wadsworth and Kent allow for stand-alone crematories.
Crematories also operate in Akron.
Ohio is one of 45 states that allow funeral homes to operate their own crematories, according to the National Funeral Directors Association's July 2020 annual report. About a third of funeral homes in the country operate their own crematories while another 11% plan to open their own in the next five years.
Stow Planning Commission members this week spoke in favor of allowing crematories in the industrial zone but tabled the discussion so that Kurtz could further evaluate the permissible purposes of the industrial zone, as a matter of procedure.
He could report back to the commission as early as Dec. 8, the commission's next regularly scheduled meeting.
Stow City Council ultimately would need to approve the measure.
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at email@example.com, 330-541-9416, or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.