GARDINER — City councilors on Wednesday will review new legislation to let the Oak Grove Cemetery Association build a controversial crematorium.

Rep. Steve Hanley, D-Gardiner and Sen. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, are sponsoring LD 286, “An Act To Allow Oak Grove Cemetery To Operate a Crematorium on a Parcel of Land Less than 20 Acres.”

State law says crematoriums must be constructed in cemeteries of 20 acres or larger that have been used for burials for at least two years. The new legislation would allow Oak Grove’s crematorium to be built in Gardiner, but at a different site away from the cemetery.

City Manager Scott Morelli said the council will consider taking a position on this legislation since it specifically affects Gardiner.

During last year’s meetings of a special town committee on the crematorium, he said, many people — including Oak Grove Cemetery neighbors — expressed support for changing state law to allow crematoria in locations other than cemeteries.

“I think this legislation is a reflection of that sentiment,” Morelli said Monday. “If this passes, the city will gladly work with the association on implementing their project.”

Councilors voted in August 2010 to keep a proposed crematorium from being built in a receiving tomb at the 27-acre Oak Grove Cemetery.

Residents who lived in the neighborhood abutting the cemetery adamantly opposed the original proposal, although the plan met state criteria.

Councilors enacted a 180-day moratorium on all crematoriums and established a committee to study the issue. Ultimately, the council rejected the plan.

Hanley said his bill would allow a crematorium to be built in an industrial zone or rural setting, and be operated by a nonprofit — in this case, most likely by the cemetery association.

According to the legislation, the crematorium could be constructed on three acres or more and would not need to be part of the existing Oak Grove Cemetery. The land, however, must be owned by the cemetery or the city.

* In other business, city councilors Wednesday will consider renewing the lease of old school building at 1 Plummer St. to Southern Kennebec Child Development Corporation for $1 annually.

Morelli said the agency’s current five-year lease runs out Thursday and exercising this option would allow for the agency to have another five years at that location with the same terms and conditions.

Morelli said the $1 annual lease is “a continuation of a long-standing partnership between the city and the children’s agency.”

“They rent the building from us for a nominal fee and in turn provide a valuable service for Gardiner families,” he said.

The council meeting is 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Mechele Cooper — 623-3811, ext. 408

[email protected]

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