Folsom cemetery withdraws crematorium plan after neighbors sue over environmental concerns

A Folsom cemetery withdrew its plan to build a crematorium after neighbors filed a lawsuit raising environmental and municipal code concerns about the proposal.

For now, Lakeside Memorial Lawn Cemetery near Lake Natoma is not moving forward with its crematorium under the terms of a settlement it reached with neighbors in August.

The Folsom City Council last week affirmed the agreement when it rescinded a permit it granted in June from project. The settlement required Lakeside to ask the City Council to cancel its conditional use permit.

The lawsuit was filed by members of the group Friends of Folsom Preservation, an organization dedicated to protecting and advocating for Folsom’s natural and historical resources, according to its website.

Terry Sorensen, 74, is a retired attorney and the organization’s legal adviser. He said that he lives across the street from Lakeside, and a crematory would spoil the historic nature of the area.

“I think the cemetery is a beautiful location,” Sorensen said. “It has graves going back to the 1850s and is part of the history of Folsom and this part of California. It gets sort of frustrating doing work I think the city should be doing. It’s the city’s job to consider these projects and do what’s right for the environment and the historicity.”

He said that other residents raised health concerns regarding air pollution and fire concerns because the crematorium would require an installation of large propane tanks, and “there’s a big eucalyptus forest right in the area.”

Representatives for Lakeside did not respond to requests for comment.

According to Choice Mutual Insurance Agency, cremation is the most common burial method in the United States, but that number may decrease as more sustainable burial alternatives become available. These include natural burial, alkaline hydrolysis and body composting.

Folsom spokeswoman Christine Brainerd said the cemetery can come back and propose a crematorium at its 1201 Forrest St. location if it completes an environmental impact report under the terms of its lawsuit settlement.

Sorensen said the preservation group would challenge Lakeside if the company again attempts to add a crematorium to the site.

“If they go get an environmental impact report and get it prepared, we’re probably back in court,” Sorensen said. “There have been some recent developments in California law that I think are helpful to us related to air pollution.”