Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Although the future of Amigone’s crematory in the Town of Tonawanda remains uncertain, one thing is for sure — it won’t be moving from Sheridan Drive anytime soon.
Thursday, Erie County Supreme Court Justice John Michalek sided with the state cemetery board’s decision to prohibit Amigone from moving the operation from its Sheridan Drive location. Michalek said the agency’s determination, which was publicized in September, was not in clear violation of the law.
Michalek’s ruling is a result of Amigone filing a challenge to the state’s decision in January.
In the state’s determination, the board said that combined funeral entities and crematories were prohibited in a decision in 1998, but that through a grandfathering exception, Amigone was allowed to continue operating its combined facility on Sheridan Drive.
“This provision only permits the funeral entity to continue to operate the same crematory it was operating before that date,” the board states.
As a result, the board said that under the law, there is “no authority for moving a crematory operation to a new location.”
“Any crematory operator — even a regular cemetery — that wishes to move its crematory would have to apply to operate a new crematory at the new location,” the decision reads.
Amigone first looked into moving the operation after signing an agreement with the attorney general’s office in July, agreeing to halt operations for six months amid backlash from area residents and the Clean Air Coalition.
When the contract was signed, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said he reserved the right to file charges against Amigone if the company began using the crematory, which was launched in 1991 adjacent to Amigone’s funeral home. He also instructed the company to find a way to reduce its emissions, or move the operation.
In July, right before the agreement was signed, a University at Buffalo study indicated widespread pollution in the surrounding residential neighborhood, including human ash.
Those results coincided with residents’ complaints. Those living near the business said they have experienced noxious smells and smoke for almost 20 years. And some living on Werkeley Avenue, the street right behind the crematory, said they have been suffering from severe illness as a result of the emissions.
Now, after months of clear air and easy breathing, many of the same residents are worried about what Michalek’s ruling will mean for the future.
“Our members want closure,” Rebecca Newberry, of the Clean Air Coalition said. “They are worried now that the move has been blocked ... they don’t want the crematory to open back up.”
Newberry said the leaders of the Amigone campaign are getting together in April to discuss further action.
“If they decide to fire up in the same location, we will have no choice but to pressure the attorney general’s office into launching a public nuisance suit,” Newberry said.
Knoer did not return repeated phone calls to comment on the case, including whether his client will wish to appeal Michalek’s ruling.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150