Wednesday, May 21, 2014
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City says “No” to Special Use Ordinance for mortuaries

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[May 21, 2014]  LINCOLN - Monday evening, the city of Lincoln aldermen voted on several motions. Among them was a vote to allow for a new Special Use Permit to be added to the city ordinances.

The request involved allowing a mortuary in a residential district to display and sell tombstones in an outdoor setting.

The city of Lincoln currently has an ordinance that allows mortuaries to do business in residential districts, but the definition of doing business does not specify the sale of such monuments.

The request came to the city though the Lincoln Planning Commission after a request from Don Peasley, the owner of Peasley Funeral Homes and Peasley Memorials. Peasley had asked to be able to establish an outdoor display area for his monument business at his funeral home.
Peasley has operated both businesses for several years in Lincoln. For quite some time the tombstones were sold out of a different location than that of the funeral home. However, recent events for Peasley brought him to the decision to set up the tombstones on the front lawn of the funeral home.
After the fact, it was discovered that as an owner of a funeral home in a residential district, city code did not specifically allow Peasley to place the stones on display.
The planning commission had been split on their decision, but ultimately agreed to recommend the approval of the request with certain conditions. They had specified that Peasley would have to shield the monument display from street view using dense evergreen shrubbery. They had also voiced a displeasure with the fact that the monument display currently exists in the front lawn of the funeral home, and had hoped that a better location could be found.

This was presented to the council several weeks ago. On May 5, the council voted on the issue and it failed. However, at last week’s workshop Mayor Keith Snyder and city code officer John Lebegue indicated that there would need to be a new vote taken. The reason for the new vote was that the tombstone issue had been combined with two other minor code changes. Because the motion failed based on the tombstones, the other two minor issues failed also.

Snyder indicated that the motion would be broken into parts so that a fair vote could be held on all the changes requested.

Monday evening, the agenda included a request for a new motion concerning the tombstones. Michelle Bauer made the motion with Ton O’Donohue offering the second.

During discussion, Jonie Tibbs was the first to speak. She told the council Peasley’s is in her ward, and she had heard from constituents that they did not want burial monuments on display in their neighborhood.

She said there was also the increased truck traffic and noise to consider. She noted that large trucks already come to the establishment to deliver caskets, but now there will be even more truck traffic as monuments are delivered as well.

She noted that the funeral home is located in one of the city’s historical regions and the roads are of brick construction. She said she didn’t think the increased truck traffic would be good.

In addition, she returned to an argument from last Tuesday, saying the residents in the area did not want to spend their time staring at monuments. She ended saying, “Their homes are their castles. So I have to vote “no” for my constituents.”

Marty Neitzel also said she would be voting no. She said she was doing so because of the people who have contacted her saying they didn’t want to see this.

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Michelle Bauer said she would still be voting yes to the request. Referring to the pour license request that had just failed, Bauer said this was a different situation. She noted Peasley is the only funeral home in Lincoln that exists in a residential district. She also said that this was different in that if approved, Peasely will have to apply for the permit and come back before the council. She said then the city would be able to work with Peasley and determine how he would move forward.

Earlier Tibbs had also mentioned that she felt this was opening doors for other business in residential districts, something she thought the city should avoid. City Treasurer Chuck Conzo commented on this saying there are already numerous small businesses in residential districts in Lincoln, and they cause no issues.

He noted that where he lives there are businesses, and because they are “good neighbors” no one hardly notices they are there. He said he was confident Peasley would also be a good neighbor. He also noted the type of business Peasley is running does not contribute to public nuisance. He said specifically that there would be no undesirable people in the neighborhood as a result of this change. He ended by saying that more revenue for local businesses would equate to more revenue for the city, which is something the city needs badly.

O’Donohue also addressed Tibbs comments saying he didn’t see how this change would open any new doors. He said the change is specific to mortuaries, and would have no bearing on anything else.

When the discussion concluded Snyder called for the vote. With eight aldermen present, Bauer, Scott Cooper, Jeff Hoinacki, and O’Donohue voted “yes.” Kathy Horn, Neitzel and Tibbs voted “No,” and Melody Anderson chose to abstain from the vote.

When the motion failed on May 5, the aldermen voting yes had included Horn. At that time, she and Scott Cooper had both hesitated for quite some time before lending their support, an indication that they were not completely in favor.

This week Horn changed her vote to “No,” and with Anderson abstaining, the vote still came in with less than 50 percent of the elected officials in favor, therefore the motion failed once again.

After the meeting, Anderson said she chose to abstain from the vote because of a professional relationship she has with Peasley.

Monday night’s decision will have no affect on Peasely's ability to offer funeral services to the community. That portion of his business would not be effected by the council decision.

Regarding the monument business, Tuesday afternoon Peasely said that right now he doesn't know what he will do with that portion of the business. He wants to discuss this further with the city zoning authorities and see if there is another option he can pursue that will allow him to keep the monuments at the funeral home.


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