Panel aims to tighten scrap yard rules

The Rules and Ordinance Committee voted to draft legislation regarding penalties while adding clarifying legal descriptions to what is allowed in M1 and M2 zoning districts.

The proposed changes, aimed at preventing scrap yards from operating in those areas and similar M3 areas, was on Tuesday’s agenda after West Pershing Street residents near the Downtown Metal and Recycling Center protested the noise, dust and junk there.

The business has been an issue with Second Ward Councilman Clyde Brown for 15 months, he said, adding a scrap yard is not a permitted use for the business located in his Ward.

Committee Chairman Rick Drummond said they weren’t there to dispute the existing business, but to eliminate the possibility of other scrap yards setting up in the M-1 and M2 zones.

He said it wasn’t a matter of whether the business could be there, noting the question was whether it was doing what it is allowed to do.

Brown pointed to the noise and dust saying they were disallowed.

Several residents complained about the noise and Councilwoman Cindy Dickey said it was beyond what council can do.

“I believe we need to make that more specific,” she said about the zoning code language, adding they needed to investigate more thoroughly “what this business is doing.”

Housing, Planning and Zoning Officer Pat Morrissey said the “alleged violations” have been burning and cutting outside, explaining it needed to done “totally” inside the building.

“That’s the only issue,” he said.

Dickey suggested residents take pictures of violations and Morrissey said his office has monitored the business but has not seen evidence of violations.

In other business, the committee discussed replacing wording in the taxi cab ordinances, proposing to give more enforcement and supervision powers to the police department while retaining some administrative functions with the Housing, Planning and Zoning office.

One proposed wording change would switch prohibited acts by the companies from the HPZ office to the police department while another change will place licensing and suspension issues in the hands of the police department.

No action was taken and Drummond said he wanted another meeting on the changes.

The committee also discussed possible legislative changes that would allow indoor firearm shooting ranges within the city limits.

Firing a gun or firearm in the city except in self-defense or in the line of duty is prohibited and a fourth degree misdemeanour.

Drummond said the issue was before the committee due to “preliminary inquiries” and “some interest expressed” and provided sample legislation for setting standards and guidelines.

Brown said he didn’t like the idea of people getting into their (guns out of their) trunks downtown and possibly stopping in a bar.

“I’m not in favor of this at all,” he said.

Dickey has looked into the noise issue and if legislation is approved she wanted an ordinance “very specific” on that.

She also checked around saying she was happy to see lucrative ranges if they are commercialized and noted at least one police officer she spoke with was in favor because police are limited in the availability of shooting ranges.

She said there are “a lot of government agencies” that inspect the ranges but she didn’t want a range close to a residential or school area. Drummond asked committee members to bring suggestions for further review.

The committee also began discussions on revising Salem’s sign ordinances.

Larry Shields can be reached at