A crematory controversy is heating up. A month ago, 7 Investigates shed light on a plan to expand the number of crematories in Miami-Dade County, a proposal that’s been met with resistance by residents.

The idea was shelved for a bit, but on Tuesday, the proposal was back before the commission, and it passed.

The crematory concerns had some residents saying “not in my backyard,” and Tuesday, with the ordinance getting the green light, some neighbors are not happy.

From a community sign stating “say no to neighborhood crematories” to an online petition, residents living close to the Bernardo Garcia Funeral Home in Southwest Miami-Dade made clear their opposition to the facility’s plan to add an onsite human crematory.

Susie Kolb, neighbor: “We were really blindsided by it because we found out– I found out about it on social media.”

That was Kolb in a 7 Investigates story that aired last month.

But Tuesday, she did not get to voice her displeasure in front of the county commission before a final vote that would allow the funeral home to move forward.

Susie Kolb: “It happened way too quickly, yes. The whole thing was completely rushed from beginning to end. For us, it’s our lives, it’s our health that’s being effected.”

The ordinance changes zoning laws to let more funeral homes in unincorporated parts of the county operate their own onsite crematories. They must undergo yearly inspections and be “no closer than 250 feet” from homes.

But some families told us, that’s not far enough.

Tom Wojnar, neighbor: “Two hundred fifty feet is nothing. They will be burning a human body, and you’ll be sitting here. It’s bad.”

A study published in 2018 found “corpse cremation generates numerous harmful air pollutants.”

In 2020, 7News cameras captured black smoke rising from three South Florida crematories, including thick plumes billowing from the stack of a funeral home in Little Havana.

Steven Bedoya, Miami-Dade County: “That’s very thick. We haven’t seen it that badly. This is a first for us.”

But in an interview, Bernardo Garcia funeral director said the newest crematory systems automatically detect and correct any issues with visible smoke.

Peter Martin: “With that technology, what that allows is it takes away the user error.”

Karen Hensel: “You sound pretty confident that if you were to get the crematorium and get the new and upgraded, something like that is not going to happen here.”

Peter Martin: “I don’t see that something like that is going to happen.”

Commissioner Raquel Regalado told us in October she was shelving the ordinance.

Commissioner Raquel Regalado: “You know, I’m actually going to put a pin in it where we’re going to defer it. We’ve listened to the neighbors. The neighbors don’t want this. You know, they’re very adamant about not wanting this.”

Commissioner Kionne L. McGhee: “Move the item, Mr. Chair.”

So what happened?

Another commissioner, Kionne McGhee, brought the item back to life, and without any discussion Tuesday, it passed 7 to 2.

Notably, one of the two “no” votes was Commissioner Regalado, the former sponsor of the legislation.

We asked Commissioner McGhee’s office for comment on why he brought the ordinance back and are still waiting on a response.

Karen Hensel, 7News.


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