Tennent Road use at issue in Manalapan crematorium plan

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By Mark Rosman
Staff Writer

MANALAPAN – The Manalapan Transportation Committee has declined to make a recommendation on an applicant’s plan to establish a crematorium on the grounds of the Old Tennent Presbyterian Church, Tennent Road, until it receives additional information about the potential number of vehicles associated with the project.

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Representatives of the Old Tennent Cemetery Association appeared before the committee on April 6 to discuss the planned conversion of an existing building on the church property into a crematorium that would contain two retorts (cremation chambers). The plan calls for a 1,300-square-foot addition to the existing building.

The applicant is seeking permission from state agencies to conduct up to 600 cremations per year, according to attorney Edward Liston, who appeared on behalf of the cemetery association.

Liston said the application is pending before the New Jersey Cemetery Board, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Manalapan Planning Board. He said construction on the crematorium will only begin if approval is granted by all three boards.

“Old Tennent (church), because of its age and because it is running out of burial space has chosen to make this application, at considerable expense,” Liston said.

The current application for the crematorium mirrors one that came before municipal officials several years ago, but on which no decision was rendered. The applicant withdrew the plan after many issues regarding the facility were raised by the Manalapan Environmental Commission.

When the application came before the Manalapan Planning Board, the board members said they would not hear the application until the environmental commission’s concerns had been addressed.

The cemetery association’s application is expected to come before the environmental commission on May 9. That meeting will be open to the public.

At the transportation committee hearing, members of the panel and the public heard testimony from traffic engineer Frank Miskovich and Robert McGirr, the owner of the Clayton and McGirr Funeral Home, Freehold Township.

Miskovich said in general, cremations would not occur during peak traffic hours on Tennent Road, which he defined as being between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. on weekdays. He said a typical cremation would involve a vehicle bringing an individual’s remains to the location and leaving the site following the cremation.

In terms of adding vehicles on Tennent Road, Liston told the transportation committee, “What you have to understand is that what we are adding is a grain of sand on a beach. It is miniscule.”

McGirr, who has owned his funeral home since 1978, said the number of cremations taking place on an annual basis has increased over the years and now accounts for between 35 percent and 40 percent of the disposition of remains. He estimated that in 2 percent to 3 percent of cremations, some family members accompany the body to the crematory.

McGirr made the point that as the number of cremations has increased, there are fewer interments and therefore fewer funeral processions to cemeteries.

Transportation committee member Barry Jacobson asked if some religious faiths are more likely to have a procession or family members accompany a body to a crematory and McGirr said that does occur in the Hindu faith.

“Is it (a procession) a possibility? Yes. Would I think it is the norm? No. My experience is that the majority in our area is that 98 percent of cremations do not have a procession to the cemetery,” McGirr said.

Processions by members of the Hindu faith was a point of interest for Glenn Cohen, the president of Stop the Manalapan Crematorium Inc. Cohen questioned the statements made by Miskovich and McGirr that the crematorium would not bring about a significant increase in vehicles on Tennent Road.

“We strongly disagree with the traffic claims. We have a growing population of people of the Hindu faith,” Cohen said. “It is not the grains of sand the applicant claims. It could be a lot of something. I have trouble believing the cemetery association will go into this not looking to make money or to lose money. Cemeteries are worried about their finances.”

Bernie Frojmovich, a representative of the Manalapan Strong citizens group and a Democratic candidate for Township Committee, said the onus is on the applicant to provide more specific information regarding the number of vehicles that would be added to Tennent Road if a crematorium is permitted to operate on the Old Tennent church property.

Transportation committee member Andy Pisani said the applicant’s representatives were “obviously providing traffic numbers favorable to its application.”

Committee Chairman Maurice Byan said the panel would need more information from the applicant about the impact of the crematorium on Tennent Road before it could offer a recommendation about the application to other municipal bodies.

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