A number of residents are likely to argue that council members should uphold the Planning Commission's rejection of the proposal a few months ago, while the funeral home company is counting on new community support, the findings of new studies, and public relations work done in recent weeks to reverse course.
Service Corp. International, which owns funeral home services nationwide, including Upland and Ontario, hope to build a single-story facility at the southeast corner of Candlewood Street and Etiwanda Avenue.
A funeral home is an allowable use under the city's zoning code for the land parcel, though a majority of the planning commissioners sided with residents in rejecting a funeral home use for the land, arguing it not to be the right fit with a neighborhood.
Opponents said the funeral home would result in lower home values for surrounding neighborhoods, increased traffic, and create psychological harm for children and adults sensitive to being near a place for the deceased.
Service Corp. is offering a promise in the form of a deed restriction that would prevent the project from including cremation services in the future, though cremation is not a permitted use for the parcel. Residents fear the new funeral home would include cremation services, and embalming, although SCI has vowed it would not provide such services at the home in the future.
"I will condition the project on the fact that there will not be a crematory, and we will make that permanent by putting in a deed restriction that runs with the land when we acquire the deed," said Dann Narveson, real estate director for SCI.
When asked about the need for a deed restriction when crematory use is already prohibited for the site, a public relations spokesman for SCI said it will provide added assurance to the residents. Narveson said the company won't be doing a deed restriction for body preparation, or embalming.
"If 20 years from now, for whatever reason if we sell this business to somebody else, I don't want on the deed that they can't prep a body in there," he said. "The reason we can't prep bodies in there is because we do it elsewhere."
Etiwanda area resident Joe Russell has been a vocal leader of the opposition.
"For a funeral home to agree not to apply for a crematorium permit where it's currently prohibited is, at best, obtuse and at worst a mockery," Russell said in a statement from the resident opposition group.
In the final week before the meeting, SCI has released a fact sheet to hundreds of nearby residents. The pamphlet, titled "We Want to be a Valuable Addition to Your Neighborhood," looks similar to an election campaign mailer and lists the various concerns raised by residents, and provides a counter argument to each point.
The fact sheet tells residents they need not worry about falling home values, or significant traffic impact, citing recent studies which indicate that won't happen in the area. It also argues points that the project will economically benefit the city through new jobs, increased public revenue from the employment, purchase of supplies from within the city, and additional revenue from 3,000 annual visitors expected to spend their money in the city.
Resident Gracie Martinez said Etiwanda Gardens, which is across the street from the parcel, also hosts funeral viewings and weddings.
"I've been here nine years, and Etiwanda Gardens also does funerals and weddings, and I've never been stopped for traffic and it's across the street," Martinez said. "I don't really see that problem," she said, "Your fear of death, it's every day. I feel like it would be a quiet environment to have this."
"This location has been targeted because it is a picturesque, tranquil, well-kept community, and that's the very reason why it's not the right location for (a) mortuary," Russell said in a statement.
"Putting a funeral home in this beautiful historic location would indeed lower home values. Ask yourself, would I want to see death every single day?"
Russell characterizes the fight as a "David vs. Goliath struggle," and said residents will make their strongest plea to the city of Rancho Cucamonga at the council meeting on Wednesday.
"The use of high powered attorneys, public relations companies and marketing research firms to secure a position within a residential neighborhood where it is clearly not wanted, shows no regard for the community," Russell said in a statement. "The residents have provided more appropriate locations, however these suggestions have been ignored."
Mayor Dennis Michael, in a prior council meeting, asked staff to keep the agenda light for Wednesday in anticipation of a long night of testimony regarding the funeral home. The hearing takes place at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Reach Neil via email, call him at 909-483-9356, or find him on Twitter @RanchoNow.