Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 17, 2014
Funeral home move hits snag at recent Blue Hill planning board meeting
The Jordan Fernald Funeral Home in Blue Hill, Maine would like to move to Main Street, but the planning board is not completely sold on the proposal.
by Faith DeAmbrose
Blue Hill Planning Board members say not-so-fast to recently announced plans by Jordan-Fernald Funeral Home to make a move to a vacant Main Street storefront.
The board said at its April 14 meeting that Jordan-Fernald would need to fill out an application for a “change of use,” and begin a review process.
Jordan-Fernald owner Lauri Fernald explained her plans to close and sell the company’s South Street location and set up shop in a smaller, rented space in the back section of the former Partridge Drugstore building. She said she was downsizing her business to match consumer demand, but felt strongly about keeping a presence to meet the needs of the community.
Planning Board member Marcia Henderson balked at the idea of funeral services or wakes being held at the facility, stating that there was not enough parking. The lack of parking was an issue for other members too, but Fernald said she anticipated having few services in that location and was, in fact, having fewer services in general.
She said that last year she met with families of deceased 25 times in Blue Hill and used the facility for funerals “only eight times in five years.”
While personal choice is changing business as usual for the company, people do utilize planning services, said Fernald, and she believes having a downtown location will benefit the business. She said that while the South Street location was only by appointment, she plans to staff the Main Street space two days a week.
The issue of parking arose again during conversation, with members noting that historically some activity in that building has led to congestion on South Street. They questioned whether the downtown could handle additional cars. Fernald said she had no intention of booking large gatherings in Blue Hill and said she still retained a facility in Ellsworth and would partner with local churches or others if a large space was needed for a client. She said she also spoke with the nearby bank to see if parking would be permissible in the bank’s lot during closed hours.
Planning Board member Ken Charles said he was uncomfortable telling Fernald how to run her business. “I want to trust your discretion and trust that you will operate your business in your best judgment. If you feel that it’ll work at that location, then I am supporting of that. But understand that there are concerns and we have heard that from people.”
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