SILVER RUN — To the operator of the country's largest and oldest pet cemetery, this small community of rolling hills, a grocery store, family farms and an elementary school is a perfect site for his latest venture, a pet crematory.
But to the more than 30 people who poured into the rectory of St. Mary's Lutheran Church for a public hearing on the proposed crematory, the place couldn't be any less perfect.
"Our concerns are certainly not eliminated," said Sue Rathbone, aBaltimore County elementary school principal and a 12-year resident of the town.
"Our concerns are genuine," she said.
"The issue is air quality. This is not appropriate in a small rural community where it happens to be near a grocery story and an elementary school."
Jerry Rosenbaum, the owner of J. R. NOW Inc., the company that operates Howard County's Rosa Bonheur Memorial Park, bought a 10,000-square-foot building in the North Carroll Industrial Center here in July.
He wants to operate the county's first -- and the state's second -- pet crematory in the building.
Prior to Thursday night's two-hour public hearing on the crematory permit, the one-time Baltimore entrepreneur expected little public resistance to the proposal.
"I felt like I was crucified at that church," he said Friday afternoon.
"All I am trying to do is improve the area and provide a service. I was badgered up there."
During an informal question-and-answer session before the formal public hearing, more than a dozen people questioned him on his business plan, his reasons for choosing this community and for conclusive evidence that the $33,000 crematory, which can burn up to 150 pounds of animal carcasses an hour at 1,800 degrees, would not pollute the air.
And while the state's Air Management Quality Administration said that the crematory meets or exceeds all air quality standards, residents at the meeting were not convinced.
Rosenbaum said that he and his wife, Willette, might be interested in moving to the community, and he told the residents at the meeting thathe intends to cremate only domestic animals, one at a time.
"We all live here now," said Dwyn Fleischer, a nine-year resident on Silver Run Valley Road. "It's nice you're saying you want to live here. But I find it hard to believe you want to come out here to be near yourcrematorium."
Rosenbaum chose the site here because its zoning --heavy industrial -- allows pet crematories as a principal use.
InJuly, he bought the building for $150,000, and since then has spent more than $100,000 in renovations.
He has an option to purchase a five-acre tract of land nearby that he said he might use to build a pet cemetery.
"I was very sincere and straightforward with them," he said. "I think some of the people weren't being realistic."
Rosenbaum has operated the 13-acre Bonheur -- which opened in 1935 -- forthe past seven years.
More than 28,000 animals are buried in the Washington Boulevard cemetery.
The cemetery also is the first in the world to allow side-by-side burial of humans and their pets.
Rosenbaum said annual revenues from Bonheur total about $450,000.
Rosenbaum expects to charge $150 for the cremation of a pet.
Air Quality Management officials are expected to rule on a permit for the crematorium in the next several weeks. Should a permit be issued, residents here could appeal that decision.