Body farm plan is not a stinker

Mesa State College likely won’t go through the city’s planning process to obtain a city permit for its body farm — officially known as a forensic anthropology center — for the simple reason that the law doesn’t require a local-government permit for a state facility.

What the college will do, according to Mesa State President Tim Foster, is work harder to keep nearby residents informed of what’s happening with the facility and what its impacts may be.

That’s not an unreasonable plan for proceeding, given the limited requirements for state agencies when it comes to local government regulations, and the history of state facilities already in the area. This is made stronger by two pledges Foster has made.

The first is that the body farm will remain on the property near east end of Riverside Parkway for only two years. After that, it will be moved to a new location not yet determined, he said.

Equally important, Foster said if the facility proves to be a serious problem for neighbors, “We will shut it down.”

But Foster and other college officials don’t believe it will have to be shut down, based on the experiences of other similar facilities operating in other locations around the country. They are currently gathering more information on things like odor control associated with those other body farms.

Although the Mesa State College Real Estate Foundation went through city planning to obtain zoning approval for the development of the property it owns in the area, it did so because the foundation eventually intends to sell the property to private owners, and it was not zoned previously, Foster said.

The body farm land, which is being leased to the college by the Foundation, will be used strictly for college activities — instruction and research. As such, a local government permit is not required any more than permits for new buildings on the main campus or for other state facilities in the neighborhood, he said.

Whether state projects should be subject to local government planning regulations, as some believe, is a separate issue. It would require either action by the state legislature or the voters.

From its creation, Mesa State has maintained a cordial and cooperative relationship with local government entities here. And that is continuing as the college moves forward with the body farm. Although Foster acknowledged that the college didn’t do as thorough a job keeping all of the neighbors informed of its plans as it has with other projects in the past, college officials are now working hard to accomplish that, he said.

We acknowledge that there is a certain “ick” factor associated with the notion of human bodies decomposing inside the city limits. But we expect that the initial sensation created by the news of the body farm will eventually dissipate, and before long the facility will be an accepted part of the Grand Valley.


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