Neighbors speak up against funeral facility

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 6, 2001

[02/06/01] Some potential neighbors have objected to a funeral home proposed for Indiana Avenue, and Vicksburg officials have agreed to hear their protest.

Ernest Thomas, a Realtor, and others, did not appear at the Zoning Board hearing when former funeral director Charles Riles asked to build the facility, but city officials said they’ll hear from Thomas at 10 a.m. March 5.

Thomas’ attorney, Louis Field, said that Thomas, whose home is at 3336 Indiana, and others think a funeral home is a bad idea for the neighborhood.

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“They object to it because it’s going to increase traffic along the road,” Field said.

Bob Morrison, 3330 Indiana Ave., who is not a party in the appeal, said he, too, thinks a funeral home could reduce property values in the neighborhood.

“We think that to begin to put commercial property out there will hurt it,” Morrison said.

But not everyone objects to the funeral home going up in the neighborhood. Freddy Abraham, 3317 Indiana Ave., said he has no objections to allowing Riles to go forward with his plan.

“It’s not going to affect me as a resident on Indiana Avenue,” Abraham said.

Riles won a unanimous Zoning Board recommendation to change the zoning of the undeveloped 3.82-acre tract immediately east of the city’s new Memorial Fire Station. There was no public comment at their hearing Jan. 11, but phone calls and letters followed.

The Zoning Board, composed of citizens, is advisory. The mayor and aldermen have the final say.

After the area was annexed in 1990, the city designated the land for R-1 Single Family use. Riles needs CBR-4 Commercial, Business and Multifamily Residential, a category that allows light commercial use.

“Its everybody’s prerogative to participate in the democratic process,” Riles said. “That area just seems to answer all of the needs for us and for the community,” he said.

Riles, former owner of Fisher-Riles Funeral Home on Cherry Street, said he is planning a full-service funeral home with a chapel, two large visitation suites, a large home-like reception area and a large parking area.

“I would in no way put anything out there that would degrade the neighborhood,” he said.

Less than a mile east of where Riles wants to build his funeral home, residents objected when a Veterans of Foreign Wars announced plans to build a meeting facility. VFW Post 10734 opened in July despite complaints from area residents who said it should not be in a residential area. The VFW property, however, is just outside the city’s borders, and Warren County has no zoning.

In other matters, city officials:

Awarded bids to Sol’s Pile and Supply of Monroe and McGuffee Steel of Vicksburg for steel supplies.

Accepted a proposal from Sprint Long Distant to provide phone service for the city.

Added three city employees to the list of approved drivers of city vehicles for the sewer department.

Authorized the city clerk to advertise for bids for concession-stand operation, vehicle accessories and an asphalt pothole patcher and truck.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will meet again at 10 a.m., Friday at City Hall.