If you are thinking of expanding your business by building a crematory, your community may not welcome you with open arms. Even if you are well-established and well-respected. We at CANA hear the stories of these often fought battles regularly. These battles are wars of words, and often are a result of opponents to the crematory not having all the facts, or even correct facts, to support their view.
Take the sleepy little conservative town of Bethany, just outside of Oklahoma City, as a case-in-point. A very well-known and respected funeral home submitted their Planned Unit Development proposal to construct a chapel and crematory and squeaked by with the votes to get approval, despite the vocal and loud objections from residents. The first hurdle was overcome. However, the community backlash that followed eventually caused the funeral home to withdraw their proposal. But because a referendum was already in progress and could not be stopped by law, the withdrawal didn’t matter. The community then broadened their appeal, and began vilifying the members of the city council who failed to heed the voice of the people. They did this by shaming the members on a billboard for all to see. Six months later, the community was finally successful in convincing the city council to overturn the approval. The funeral home will not be able to grow and expand.
There were several surprising issues that were observed from this series of events. First the community, though very conservative and home to several faith-based universities, did not object based on religious reasons. In fact, some of the opponents planned to be cremated themselves. Their concerns centered around air quality, depreciation of property and its proposed location (next to a senior living center, restaurant and other retail stores). Eventually, they even brought traffic and parking in to the mix as issues of concern. Another surprise was that the community did not attack the funeral home, but instead this inanimate object called a crematory.
There were also several lessons learned in this situation. Location will play a significant role in the type and frequency of opposition. In addition, this opposition can be formidable and adaptable and hard to predict. While accurate technical data is necessary in presenting your side, you must also account for the emotional response that may come from opponents and not ignore it. Finally, be aware of "planned opposition." The internet is chock full of forums and groups all too willing to share tactics.
How will you prepare when the time comes for you to build a new crematory? Stay tuned for Part Two as we share advice from CANA manufacturer members in future blog postings.
Members can read the full article in Vol. 53, No. 1 Issue of The Cremationist.
Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!