The Knoxville City Council chamber was full Wednesday night as dozens of concerned residents expressed their opposition to a proposed new business in their neighborhood.
Leroy Winfield, owner of Winfield Funeral Home, offered the City of Knoxville $20,485 for property at 1512 West Pleasant. This property was obtained by the City in an attempt to clean up blight. Winfield's offer covered all costs and expenditures made by the City in purchasing and cleaning the property.
But it is what Winfield intends to put on the land that caused concern. Winfield intends to build a crematorium. The land in question is zoned commercial, which would allow construction of such a business, though it is surrounded by residential properties. If the City of Knoxville did not own the property, no public hearing would be required for its sale and there may not be a way for the City to deny its construction.
The Knoxville City Council had previously denied a request by Winfield to rezone a parcel of land near Fairlane Bowl to accommodate the crematorium. City staff members worked with Winfield to try to find City-owned property that would better suit his needs. 1512 West Pleasant looked like the best site.
Before the City can sell any of its property, a public hearing is required. The public was heard, both verbally and nonverbally, as many addressed the council and a petition with 144 signatures was submitted to the council.
Chad DesPlanque, Jeff Jones and others who spoke were concerned that the crematorium may affect their property values. Others expressed concern about what to tell children who live and attend school in the area, when they ask what the crematorium is for.
“There could be a lot better placement,” DesPlanque said.
Winfield was also given the opportunity to address the council. He presented council members with a packet of information that included a proposed exterior design for the building. Winfield said it would look like a three-stall garage, and that there would be no clouds of billowing smoke coming from the chimney. A clear vapor would be released into the air. Assistant City Manager Dylan Feik researched crematorium regulations in Iowa, and the state monitors emissions from such facilities.