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Funeral home ordered to cease New Kingston operations

BY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Environment editor williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 10, 2012    

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SAM Isaacs and Son Funeral Home may not have to permanently close its office and showroom at Worthington Terrace in New Kingston, after being slapped with a Stop Notice and Enforcement Order by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).

The Stop Notice and Enforcement Order were served Monday after the environmental regulatory agency found that the funeral home was operating in an area zoned for residential purposes only.

"We responded to a complaint of what was called a funeral home in the New Kingston Area. When we did our investigations, what we did find was not a funeral home, but a showroom for funeral things such as coffins, etc. We also found out that persons can go there to make funeral arrangements. We did not find any preparation of any bodies for burial or any other thing associated with that, such as embalming and so forth," NEPA's enforcement manager Richard Nelson told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

"However, it is a commercial entity and is located and operated in an area that is currently zoned for residential purposes. When we did our internal checks, we realised that no planning permission was given for the operation of that facility there. Without the planning permission, they are in contravention of the 1965 Kingston Development Order and also the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) of 1957," he added.

Under the Stop Notice, Sam Isaacs and Son has 10 days within which to cease its operations and 28 days, under the Enforcement Notice, to "return the property to what it was before they started the commercial operation", Nelson said.

But all may not be lost for the funeral home operators. Nelson said they can apply for retention of use — an application that requires the submission of "drawings and plans for the use of the facility, layout of access and egress, drainage plans and so on".

Whether they will be granted the requisite approval is another matter.

"Just like any other application, they will have to send in the requisite application documents and there is a process that will have to be gone through," Nelson noted.

Managing director of Sam Isaacs and Son Gordon Chuck has said he is awaiting legal advice to decide on his next step.

"I am not going to break any law or give anybody a hard time," he told the Observer.

At the same time, Chuck said he would "possibly" apply for retention of use, depending on what he is advised to do.

"Technically, residential areas have businesses in them and most are dual-zone where you have residential and commercial. So I don't know what the specific grouse with the funeral home there is," he mused yesterday.

"I assured everybody I have no intention of having any bodies there or of doing any lab work. It is only an administrative office where people can come in to make funeral arrangements and a showroom where they can select coffins and whatever else," he added.

In the wake of NEPA's action, Chuck said he has not continued operations at Worthington Terrace.

"Right now, I am at a standstill," he said. "I am really fresh in the place; I haven't been there long. I haven't even [fully] set up the place yet."

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