Residents battling against proposed funeral home and crematorium

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

Sundaram Swetharanyam is among more than 100 residents against a proposed funeral home and crematorium at the southwest corner of Common and Oakwood streets in Lake Charles.

The City of Lake Charles Planning and Zoning Commission approved a “conditional use zone change from residential to commercial” at its meeting earlier this month. The commission’s recommendation will go before the full Lake Charles City Council for its approval Nov. 7.

A petition, headed up by Swetharanyam, lists more than 20 objections, including that the University subdivision has been,

exclusively, a residential area since inception some 60 years ago.

But the main concern, according to Swetharanyam’s petition, is the

possibility of “toxic air and mercury poisoning” from the

crematorium.

“This will make the usual southern breeze from the gulf a carrier of poisonous gas from the crematorium to this subdivision,”

Swetharanyam’s petition reads. “This proposal will significantly de-value all the homes in this area.”

Swetharanyam said the funeral home and crematorium will also affects another 100 homes in the Gulfgate subdivision next to

the McNeese football stadium.

Swetharanyam said his home, at 525 Jefferson Drive, is 220 yards from the site of the proposed funeral home.

The other concern is the possibility for traffic congestion, he said.

“All the streets in that subdivision are two-lane, two-way streets with speed limits of 25,” Swetharanyam, a retired professor

of computer science and head of computer systems at McNeese, said. “They already experience enough traffic at peak hours.”

Mark Eckard, the City Council member who presides over District G where the proposed funeral home is set to be built, said

he’ll hear both sides and give it an appropriate hearing.

However, Eckard said the trend of Common Street is toward commercial use.

“I’ve had both sides calling and voicing opinions,” Eckard said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

The petition states the Planning and Zoning Commission sent notices to “only five houses in the immediate proximity of the

proposed business site.”

“We, the residents of this area, feel that the Planning Commission is not acting in the interest of what is good for Lake

Charles as a city but in the interest of a couple of businessmen,” the petition reads.

Swetharanyam asks in the petition that

the City Council “reverse the action” — not approve the Planning

Commission’s recommendation

to make zoning change. He recommends the business be located

further south toward the Lake Charles Regional Airport or on

East McNeese Street where there are no residential areas.

Swetharanyam said in the petition that

similar proposals to locate a funeral home and crematorium in the middle

of housing

subdivisions have been defeated in places like California, Ohio

and Iowa because of “toxic vapors and infringement of a totally

residential area.”

Rodney Mallett, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality, said Wednesday he was unaware of environmental concerns

regarding crematoriums but would do further research on the matter.