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DFS City Council lays crematorium debate to rest

Aug 25th, 2011 | 0

By REID TUCKER

The DeFuniak Springs City Council at last washed its hands of the crematorium debate by voting unanimously in favor of repealing Ordinance No. 801 and adopting Ordinance No. 805.

The new ordinance, at its most basic level, removes the change to the city’s zoning rules put in place by Ordinance No. 801. Since the only change brought about by 801 was the addition of crematoriums to the list of acceptable business types allowed in areas zoned “C-1 Commercial Restricted” upon special approval, the adoption of Ordinance No. 805 simply reverts Chapter 5 of Appendix A of the city’s zoning rules back the days before the crematorium debate first reared its head. Furthermore, in the interest of avoiding confusion regarding 805’s intent, the Council voted to strike out Section 2 (the short title) just because it contained the word “crematorium.”

However, not everyone in attendance at the Monday, Aug. 22, meeting was convinced the issue was resolved, especially not Jeannine Cole, who stood on the anti-crematorium side of the debate from its beginning. Cole contended the actual content of Ordinance No. 805 still included provisions allowing crematoriums after special approval. Cole, who described the last several months as her “nightmare summer,” said the stress from the crematorium controversy caused her to lose 20 pounds and to start smoking again and that she was ready for it to be finished.

After Cole’s lengthy address to the Council, Mayor Harold Carpenter did his best to allay her fears before the Council members put the adoption of 805 to the vote.

“Mrs. Cole, you can quit your smoking because this tonight will take care of (the) crematoriums,” Carpenter said.

Despite the passage of the new ordinance and in spite of being assured that the provision for crematoriums in C-1 zones had been removed, Cole was not satisfied. She was particularly incensed with what she alleged were deliberate acts of misrepresentation on the part of City Attorney Clayton Adkinson when he submitted public notices regarding the repeal of 801 and the actual content of 805, of which she remained skeptical. Cole said the actions she perceived to have been taken by Adkinson constituted “a serious ethical violation” and that she would “take action.”

Though the Council finally had the crematorium debate behind it, there was still a labyrinthine agenda to contend with. Several requests from DeFuniak Springs residents took up the front end of the agenda before topics of discussion got more in depth, eventually culminating in the adoption of Ordinance No. 805. Some of the major bulleted points included appointments to various committees, the passage of a moratorium on automatic utility rate increases, updates on the old Health Department building renovation project, hashing out term limits for city council members and deciding whether or not to create a new public works supervisory position.

In what appeared to be a theme of sorts, all agenda requests related to holiday festivities in some way or another.

First up, Kiwanis Club of DeFuniak Springs President Mike Morris requested a waiver for use of the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood for a Kiwanis District Council meeting on Dec. 13 which would include about 50 people. Morris said holding the meeting around Lake DeFuniak exposed out-of-town visitors to the Christmas Reflections display, generating positive word-of-mouth advertising for the city. The request passed unanimously when put to the vote.

James Ash, representing Christmas Reflections, requested that the Council approve the temporary three-month hire of a worker to assist state inmates in setting up the holiday light display, which the Council also approved. The worker’s $1,200-per-month salary would come from Christmas Reflections’ coffers and would not cost the taxpayers, Ash said. Finally, Chris Guzowski, of the DeFuniak Springs Woman’s Club, requested a partial road closure around Circle Drive during Halloween trick-or-treating and during the Christmas parade, both of which were approved by the Council.

Moving into the thick of agenda, the five Council members and the mayor made their recommendations for the members of the city’s Enterprise Zone Committee, with business owner Robert Nelson being nominated as the chairman and Aaron Bradshaw was nominated as vice chair. Planning Director Greg Scoville and Councilman Ron Kelley and were nominated and unanimously chosen to represent DeFuniak Springs on the Northwest Florida Military Sustainability Partnership. The intergovernmental group is comprised of city council members and county commissioners from Okaloosa and Walton County and meets every three months….

Read the full story in the Aug. 25, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.

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