Havre City Council approved a zoning change that opens the door to a second funeral home in Havre.
Kirkwood Funeral Home in Malta and Edwards Funeral Home in Chinook are planning a mortuary/funeral home at the location of the Church of the Nazarene, 310 South Dell, city officials said. It will be called Hi-Line Funeral Services.
The area is now zoned residential, for single family homes, they said. Council's action Monday night is the first step in approving the plan, but the city's Zoning Board of Adjustments must approve a special use permit before work can begin on converting the church into a mortuary.
The church has seen declining attendance and is looking to sell its building.
One neighborhood resident, Donna Stockdale, who has lived across the street from the church for 50 years, said that she opposed the plan and that some neighbors who are out of town for the winter agree with her.
She said she was against the zoning change 30 years ago after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints left the church for its new facility in Highland Park. After neighbors fought the church, that plan was defeated, she said.
"I'm against doing this to our neighborhood," she said.
Mayor Tim Solomon said the city received a letter from another neighborhood resident opposing the idea.
In a letter to council, Councilman Allen "Woody" Woodwick said he talked to people in the neighborhood and most were not opposed to the idea, fearing that if the mortuary was not allowed in, the property would deteriorate.
Council unanimously approved Councilman Andrew Brekke's motion to approve the plan.
Zoning Board Chair Jeremy Siemens, in a letter to council, said the zoning change of commercial-local would not be spot zoning. Although property on two sides of the church are residential, other buildings in the area are not. District 4 Human Resources Development Council and Fifth Avenue Christian Church are in that neighborhood, he said.
He said residents expressed fears that the funeral home could sell the property for use as a casino or a tavern. Siemens said those uses are not permitted in commercial-local zones.
Under the city's zoning code, a variety of small businesses can be built in a commercial-local zone, but a funeral home needs special approval.
The Zoning Board of Appeals is schedule to meet at 4 p.m. Thursday to discuss the matter, but city officials said it wasn't clear if sufficient advance notice of the meeting was provided, and the meeting may have to be delayed. The legal notice ran in the Havre Daily News Friday, but seven days notice is required.
Eric Edwards of Edwards Funeral Home deferred questions about the project to Greg Kirkwood, proprietor of the Malta facility. Kirkwood was unavailable for comment this morning.
If approved, the funeral home would be the second in the city. Holland & Bonine Funeral Chapel has served the area for many years.