Hearings Continue on Donaldson Funeral Home

In October 2009, Jay Donaldson, owner of Donaldson Funeral Home, purchased 3.27 acres of land fronting on MD 108 about 1600’ south of MD 32 in Clarksville with the intention of building a funeral home. Since this time, the proposal has been winding its way through the County’s review and approval process and a final decision remains to be made.

In February 2010, Donaldson Funeral Home submitted a petition for a Conditional Use to construct and operate a funeral home facility comprised of three viewing rooms, a chapel, and associated parking (Case BA-10-001C). Although the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) recommended approval, the original petition was met with opposition from St. Louis Church and nearby residents. The petitioner did amend the petition. However, after five hearings, late in 2010 the Hearing Examiner denied permission for the Conditional Use to allow the funeral home on the property
that is zoned Rural Residential: Density Exchange Option. As a result of concerns raised during the hearings, the County’s
zoning regulations affecting the parking requirements for funeral homes were amended in 2011 (ZRA-131). This change resulted in an increase in the number of required onsite parking spaces. Dissatisfied with the Hearing Examiner’s decision, Donaldson Funeral Home did appeal the decision to the Board of Appeals. At the initial February 2012 Board of Appeals hearing, the petitioner submitted a revised Conditional Use plan that reduced the size of the facility, eliminated the chapel portion, increased parking and improved circulation, and increased landscaping and buffering.
The hearings have been continuing ever since.

However, many local residents continue to be concerned about the impact of the funeral home on the surrounding area.
The River Hill Community Association’s Board of Directors submitted written testimony in June 2012 expressing concern about traffic and safety issues posed by the proposed construction. The Village Board also authorized Kenny Kan, a Board Member, to speak on behalf of the Association on this matter.

Residents from the surrounding residential communities have formed the grassroots group Clarksville Residents Against Mortuary (CRAM). CRAM has hired an attorney and technical experts to advocate on their behalf. In their testimony before the Board of Appeals, CRAM has raised concerns about: the impact of additional traffic and funeral processions on a roadway that is already over capacity; emergency vehicle access; the potential for groundwater contamination since the funeral home is proposed to be on well and septic as are surrounding properties; forest conservation and the impact of development on the quality of a nearby stream; and cultural impacts, particularly for the Asian population, that believes in harmony between human daily life and the environment and therefore feel a funeral home is not appropriate for a residential area. More information about CRAM can be found at www.stopthefuneralhome.moonfruit.com or by sending an email to jamesfcv@yahoo.com.

The Board of Appeals hearing on this matter will continue next on October 9. On August 23, the petitioner submitted another revised plan. DPZ’s Technical Staff report will be available for review by October 1 at DPZ and posted online at http://cc.howardcountymd.gov. All Board of Appeals cases begin at 6:30 p.m. in the George Howard Building, 3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City. For further information, please contact the Board of Appeals office at 410-313-2395.

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