TOWN OF TONAWANDA - Neal Hodgson's neighborhood used to smell a little funny.
"It's a sickening, sweet smell," he said, "of cremated human beings."
Forgive Hodgson if he sounds a little blunt. Fifteen years ago, he moved into a home at the intersection of Fries and Werkley streets in the Town of Tonawanda, a short walk from the traffic-ridden Sheridan Drive. His home also happened to sit right behind a crematory, which opened in 1991 under the operation of Sheridan Park Inc., and Amigone Funeral Homes. He and his neighbors constantly complained about the foul smells, the smoke, the noise and the other inconveniences associated with living so close to a crematory.
Needless to say, the smoke made it hard to barbecue in the backyard sometimes.
"It's really not a condiment that we want on our hamburgers and hot dogs," Hodgson said.
Hodgson and his neighbors want to ensure they will never have to endure that smell ever again, even though Amigone shut down the crematory in July 2012 as a part of an agreement with the Attorney General. On Monday, they showed up at the town board meeting in droves in support of a resolution to oppose the reopening of the crematory. Since the closure agreement expired after six months, the crematory could technically open again if Amigone so chooses. A spokesperson for the company told 2 On Your Side there aren't any plans to reopen at the moment, but he said they are "continuing to keep their options open."
The resolution "hereby opposes the reopening of the Sheridan Park Crematory at 2600 Sheridan Drive and/or any location adjacent to this location, unless the Crematory takes steps to address the complaints." It passed easily, with only one dissenting vote.
The neighborhood recruited the Clean Air Coalition to help it draft the resolution. Several representatives, including Rebecca Newberry, attended the board meeting on Monday.
"I have talked to dozens and dozens of residents about how horrific the smell is," Rebecca Newberry said. "Can't open their windows, can't go outside, feeling odors of dryness in the throat burning eyes.We're really talking about a huge quality of life issue."
Amigone did try to move its facility to another part of town, but a judge denied that in March-- a move it will appeal. 2 On Your Side also reported on the possibility that Amigone would move the crematory simply down the road to an adjacent parking lot, but that no longer appears to be a possibility.
For now, the neighborhood is safe.
And perhaps even more safe thanks to the new resolution.
"We can have picnics in our backyard," Hodgson said, "without having our hamburgers and hot dogs contaminated by human ash of the smoke stacks."
Sheridan Park/Amigone released the following statement this afternoon, in light of the resolution:
In advance of tonight's vote by the Town of Tonawanda board regarding their opposition to the reopening of Sheridan Park Crematory, it is important to reiterate that the operation of our crematory meets all New York State Department of Environment Conservation regulations and is in full compliance.
Last year, the Amigone Family voluntarily and temporarily agreed to halt operations at our Sheridan Drive location in a good faith effort to work with the neighborhood and address its concerns. But any statement that implies the operation is not in full compliance with DEC regulations is false.
As we said last week, we are reviewing all of our options regarding the operations of our crematory, and will continue every effort to be a good neighbor.