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Schoor provides tour of proposed pet cemetery site

Developer, farm manager & crematorium director hold stakes in project
BY JENNIFER KOHLHEPP
Staff Writer

Developer Howard Schoor said he’s not going away anytime soon.

That’s what the Holmdel resident, who is the founder of Manalapan’s Schoor DePalma, one of the region’s leading engineering and consulting firms, told reporters at a press junket held Monday at Showplace Farms on Route 33 in Millstone.

Schoor made the comment in reference to a Millstone-based nonprofit organization’s appeal of the township zoning board’s unanimous vote to grant a variance that would allow the construction of a pet memorial park on Showplace Farms.

“I already have $150 [thousand] to $200,000 invested in this project,” Schoor said. “If the township overrides the board’s decision, I’ll seek remedy in the courts.”

The fate of Showplace Pet Memorial Park depends on the Township Committee upholding its zoning board’s decision and the project receiving final site plan approvals, Schoor said.

The committee will hold a hearing on the matter at 6 p.m. May 18 at the Millstone Municipal Building, Millstone Road.

If everything goes well, Schoor said, he and his partners — Larry Nicola, a regional cemetery/crematorium operator, and Bix DiMeo, who oversees the daily operations at Showplace Farms — would invest more than $1 million in developing a pet cemetery and crematorium on 16.5 acres of the 140-acre farm.

“We would start construction in the fall,” Schoor said.

Showplace Farms is currently used to stable horses that compete in races at the Meadowlands, Schoor said. The facility also opens its horse pool to dogs from the local area that have medical complications, according to DiMeo.

“I can see the headline now: ‘Showplace Farms goes to the dogs,’ ” Schoor said.

Schoor made the comment referring to the current situation with the Millstone residents who created a nonprofit organization through a Web site, www.noincinerator.com, to garner support and funding for appealing the zoning board’s decision to grant the variance for the pet cemetery.

The nonprofit’s attorney, Lewis Goldshore, said the group’s legal objections to the zoning board proceedings include failure to properly notify residents; improper rezoning of a parcel of land; failure to show that the project would be inherently beneficial; and failure to prove the site suitable for a pet cemetery/crematorium and without substantial detriment to the public good.

A press release from www.noincinerator.com states that not only do residents object to the land use, but also to the potential pollution and traffic such a facility could produce.

“We take care of over 400 horses here,” Schoor said. “Eighty percent of them race and are worth more than half a million dollars. We would never do anything to harm these horses. Why would we put something on 14 acres that would be a detriment to the other 125 acres?”

With regard to the potential pollution the incinerator could produce, DiMeo said people are wrongly comparing the animal crematorium to a municipal waste incinerator.

“There won’t be anything but organic material going into the crematorium,” DiMeo said. “These animals are 98 percent water and about 2 percent carbon. There’s nothing toxic going into the crematorium.”

Schoor produced a statement from Lester Jargowsky, director of the Monmouth County Health Department and a Millstone resident.

“The relative health risks are extremely small,” Jargowsky said in the press release. “There is more environmental harm in a residential fireplace than in an animal crematorium.”

With regard to possible traffic the pet cemetery could create, Schoor said, “We’ll be lucky if we have half a dozen cars a day. We’re located on the state highway, so traffic won’t impact the local community.”

With regard to the aesthetics of the property, Schoor said that the entrance to the facility will be tree-lined. There would be meandering paths throughout the property, and sitting areas among the ash-scattering gardens. All of the existing farm buildings, once used for horse auctions, would be renovated and covered with stucco.

“This will be the most upscale facility in the country, if not the world,” Schoor said.

Schoor said the proposed animal crematorium would have two 15-foot smokestacks that stick out of a 30-by-50-foot building. One of the facility’s three ovens would be big enough for horses.

When asked if the facility would accept road kill from local areas, DiMeo said, “It’s not in our business plan, but if Monmouth County officials called us up and asked us to do them a favor, we wouldn’t say no.”

For those who would like to ensure the proper handling of their animals, Schoor said, the facility will allow pet owners to watch cremations. The facility will also have a chapel for services, along with a 30,000-plot cemetery, a mausoleum and indoor niches for cremated remains, Schoor said.

“We’re really going to make this a destination point for people who love their animals, a real tourist attraction,” DiMeo said.

Schoor said the state of New Jersey currently has two licensed and operating crematoriums. Showplace Pet Memorial Park would join them in the National Association of Pet Cemeteries, Schoor said. The facility would also be subject to federal, state and local environmental regulations.

“We will have to get a clean-air permit,” Schoor said. “We’re already in the process of applying for one.”

With regard to comments made on www.noincinerator.com stating that an animal crematorium would reduce property values, Schoor said, “If anyone had a vested interest, it would be me. I’m the largest tax payer in the township.”

DiMeo said, “When anyone hears the word incinerator, red flags go up. But, the people who are giving out wrong information about this kind of incinerator are the ones to blame.”

Schoor said, “We think there is a tremendous need for this. It doesn’t seem anyone is objecting to the pet cemetery, just the crematorium, but that’s an intrinsic part of this kind of facility.”

When asked if he is considering more than just profits with this project, Schoor said, “Sure, I’m a developer, but there are other things in life that motivate projects other than profits. This really isn’t a project for us, but our children and our grandchildren.”

Schoor, a civil engineer, founded the design and engineering firm Schoor DePalma Inc. in 1968. His firm handles more than 5,500 projects a year in areas that include transportation services, land development planning, public works services, environmental services and building services. The firm provides engineering and consulting services to more than 500 commercial and government clients in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, according to the firm’s Web site.

“If Howard Schoor wants something done, it gets done,” DiMeo said. “The pet industry is growing in leaps and bounds, and having a pet cemetery in Millstone could put it on the map. We could be in the forefront of a billion-dollar industry.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about Showplace Farms or its proposed pet cemetery can call DiMeo at (732) 446-3100.

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