Proposed amendment to prohibit junk yards

Council will consider adding a paragraph to the ordinances dealing with M1 light industrial and M2 heavy industrial zones which would prohibit auto wrecking lots, scrap yards or junk yards in the city.

The Rules & Ordinances Committee of city council voted 3-0 Wednesday to recommend the change to the two ordinances, with committee Chairman Councilman Rick Drummond saying he wants the ordinances to be introduced at the next council meeting, which is 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The paragraph to be added reads: “No lot or premises may be used for auto wrecking, scrap yard or junk yard which would include, but not be limited to, the collection, sorting or processing of scrap or salvage material or for the storage of such material or for the extraction of gravel,sand or other raw material.”

The discussion about scrap yards and other such operations began about 18 months ago when Councilman Clyde Brown, also on the committee, started complaining about a business on West Pershing Street known as Downtown Metals & Recycling. The city sent a letter regarding an alleged violation of the zoning code for M2 heavy industrial due to the cutting up of some items outside and after several meetings and the installation of a fence, the business has been considered in compliance, although Brown claims there are still violations.

During the committee meeting, he said his concern was that if they made these changes now before the situation with that business is figured out, nothing will change. He questioned whether the ordinance grandfathers in the business they have now that he says is a scrap yard.

Drummond said the way the current ordinance reads. they’re not allowed to do certain things in M1 or M2, but the business there contends they’re following the guidelines set forth in the current ordinance.

“They’re claiming to be in compliance,” he said, noting if something is going on that isn’t in compliance, then the city can file action.

Brown said there needs to be a statement in the ordinances saying they can’t be grandfathered in, meaning they would have to follow what the new ordinances state, but Planning and Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey said that can’t be done.

“You cannot legislate a business out of your community,” he said. “That’s asking for an injunction against the city.”

He said what the ordinances will do is prevent someone else from bringing a business of this type into the city. As for Downtown Metals, he said he was called by Brown about a possible violation recently and noted they said they weren’t going to process vehicles and he saw a truck with the top off. However, he didn’t know if the truck came that way or not. He didn’t see them doing any cutting or burning or activities that they were in violation.

Drummond stressed that the purpose of the change in the ordinances is to prevent a future scrap yard or junk yard from coming into the city. He said “this meeting isn’t to discuss the business on Pershing.”

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, the third member of the committee, said they need to move forward with the change they proposed.

“Anything we do here is just garbage if we don’t enforce it,” she said.

Brown asked if she had been by the property and she said she had but couldn’t see over the fence. He said he’s asked that the property be inspected several times and to his knowledge, it had not. Morrissey said in the past that he’s not sure he has the authority to do that.

Brown said his concern is what’s going to happen to the current business. He said he feels bad how it affects the people in his ward.

In other business, the committee discussed aspects of a proposed new city ordinance to allow indoor shooting ranges in the city. Currently, the city prohibits the firing of any gun in the city unless it’s for self-defense or by the police.

At issue is whether the ordinance should be all-encompassing to cover both commercial and personal use indoor shooting ranges, whether there should be a restriction regarding residential areas and who would administer the rules and licensing.

Drummond’s contention was that it could cover both residential and commercial, with the same requirements applying to both to ensure that nothing gets out of the facilities, no bullets, no noise and no smell. His main concern was safety.

Dickey said she didn’t think they should be in a residential area and expressed some concerns about the safety when transferring a weapon from a vehicle to the facility or a house. Drummond said he didn’t see how that would make a difference if they all have to follow the same regulations and noted that people now are transferring weapons from their vehicle to their residence if they’re going shooting somewhere else.

Morrissey also was questioning the intent of the law, whether they were looking at just commercial establishments or both commercial and personal use, saying he could see two classifications, one for commercial facilities and one for private shooting ranges in a home.

Mayor John Berlin, also in attendance, suggested they could regulate a commercial facility under business regulations and make it a conditional use only in certain zoned areas.

Brown suggested starting out with just commercial shooting ranges to see how that works, then consider private residences later.

No decision was made, with more discussion to take place at a future meeting.