Funeral home site moved to county

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 30, 2001

[03/30/01] Vicksburg funeral director Charles Riles has decided to avoid the question of city zoning for his proposed new funeral home by moving the location a few hundred feet east on Indiana Avenue, out of the city and into Warren County.

He closed the purchase of the new site Friday morning.

“You ought to be seeing activity there in the next couple of weeks,” and he hopes the business will be ready to open in September, Riles said Thursday.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

In January, Riles, the former owner of Fisher-Riles Funeral Home, appeared before the Vicksburg Board of Zoning Appeals to ask for a change of zoning on a 3.82-acre tract of land on Indiana Avenue adjacent to the city’s Memorial Fire Station. After no one appeared to oppose his request, the board voted unanimously to recommend to the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Vicksburg that Riles’ request be approved. The request was for a change from R-1 Single Family zoning that had been in place since the city annexed the area in 1990 to CBR-4 Commercial, Business and Multifamily Residential because that category allows light commercial use.

Riles has been in the funeral business for nearly 40 years, first associated with Fisher Funeral Home, which he later renamed Fisher-Riles. Five years ago, he sold the funeral home to the Loewen Group Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia. In 1999, Loewen filed for bankruptcy in both Canada and the United States. The new owners cut off the remainder of the payments to Riles, dropped him as a consultant and canceled his non-competitive agreement.

At the time, Riles said he planned to build a full-service funeral home, complete with a chapel, two large visitation suites, a large home-like reception area and large parking areas.

After the zoning board hearing and before the matter was taken up by the mayor and aldermen, some residents who live on Indiana Avenue mounted opposition to Riles’ plans.

The plans are essentially the same, Riles said, but now Riles Funeral Home will be built on land located outside the city limits.

“I had hoped that development would have taken place inside the city,” said South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb. “He has to make business decisions that are in his best interest.”

“I’m sorry to hear that because Charles Riles made a very good case before the zoning board,” said Tim Fagerberger, a member of the zoning board.

“We were able to buy a larger tract of land that is adjacent” to the original site, Riles said, adding the additional property will allow him to do other things once he has the first phase, a funeral home and insurance office, opened. He declined to say what else he may have planned.

The whole thing may have worked out for the best, he said. The funeral home will now be built on a rise above the level of Indiana Avenue allowing the building to be turned so motorists driving east on Indiana will be looking at the front.

The building will be a one-story structure flanked by what Riles called two “parking gardens.”

“When you spend as much as I will, you don’t call them parking lots,” he said.

The arrangement will place all parking on the same level as the funeral home.

The plans and architectural drawings have been finished and Abraham Construction Co. of Vicksburg has been hired to construct the building, Riles said.

In addition to Fisher-Riles, Vicksburg is home to four other funeral homes. Riles’ facility will be the first in the county.