Richmond residents will be asked Wednesday night whether they want to donate 5.3 acres of town land behind the middle and high schools to the cemetery, a gift that will allow a funeral home to build a crematory without asking for a state exemption.

The Cotton Cemetery Association has about 18 acres of land in its cemetery on Route 197, according to Peter Warner, chairman of the Board of the Selectmen, but state law requires associations own at least 20 acres to build a crematory.

The land the town is proposing to give to the association is part of a roughly 18-acre parcel behind the schools and has a brook running through it, making the section of land undevelopable, Warner said.

The special town meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Marcia Buker School.

Chuck Kincer, owner of Kincer Funeral Home in Richmond, wants to build the crematory, and the cemetery association will receive some of the revenue from its use, said Dana Sullivan, president of the association.

Sullivan said more people are buying small lots for cremations instead of plots, cutting into the organization’s revenue.

“We are not getting the income we used to get to help maintain the cemetery. It costs a lot to maintain that cemetery out there,” Sullivan said.

Kincer also owns Funeral Alternatives, a company that offers cremation and low-cost burial services. Kincer said he subcontracts the cremations right now, and the demand warrants building his own facility for the business. Kincer said he would be forming a nonprofit organization to operate the crematory if it’s built, he said.

Warner said he’s received some questions from residents asking why the town is considering giving land away for free. But he said even though the land won’t be taxed if owned by the association, the town likely wouldn’t be able to sell it to a private entity for development because of the stream going through it.

The cemetery has struggled with generating income in recent years, he said, and this is a way to help the association.

“I just think it makes sense,” Warner said. “It’s being part of the community.”

The town would still need to approve the building of the crematory if voters approve the land transfer Wednesday, he said.

A few years ago, a cemetery association in neighboring Gardiner struggled to get approval for a crematory. The Oak Grove Cemetery Association wanted to build the crematory at its 27-acre cemetery in a residential area, but neighbors objected and the City Council voted it down in 2010.

The association later opened a crematory in the city’s Libby Hill Business Park. Local lawmakers had to propose a bill, approved in 2011, to allow the association to build a crematory in a location other than the cemetery.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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