Quaker City concerned over zoning changes

SALEM – A representative of Quaker City Castings addressed city council Tuesday regarding a proposed change to the ordinances dealing with M1 light industrial and M2 heavy industrial zones to prohibit auto wrecking lots, scrap yards and junk yards.

Geoff Korff, vice president and general counsel for the manufacturing facility at 330 E. Euclid St. in Salem, explained how the company brings in scrap material and melts it down to use in other operations.

He said he understood current companies would be grandfathered in, meaning they wouldn’t be held to the new zoning rules, but said the proposed ordinance would place some level of restriction on companies to take in, sort and process scrap material.

“A component of our business is taking in and processing scrap material,” he said, noting that most of it’s done under roof.

Korff said the company acquired the old Colfor manufacturing space and that was part of his reason for being there, because they may want to use that space for part of their business.

Council held first reading on the changes to the two zoning ordinances dealing with M1 and M2. Two additional readings will be needed for the measures to pass.

The paragraph to be added to each ordinance 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.”

Councilman Clyde Brown told Korff he’s never had a complaint about his business and the business is 100 percent in compliance because everything is done inside the building. Council President Mickey Cope Weaver referred Korff to city Planning and Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey for any questions he may have.

After the meeting, Morrissey said he had spoken to Korff previously and explained that the company had nothing to worry about because their primary business was the making of castings. He said they’re not taking in scrap and reselling it or running a scrap business.

Part of the reason the issue of scrap yards came up was because of concerns Brown had raised about a business on Pershing Street which he claimed was in violation of the zoning for heavy industrial. The city had sent a letter to the business last year about concerns with material being cut up outside, in violation of the zoning, but since then has found the business in compliance.

Brown has contended at several meetings that the business was still violating the rules, but on Tuesday, he said he was throwing in the towel, so to speak.

“After one year and a half, of addressing concerns for the scrap yard, on West Pershing Street, I’m informing my Second Ward residents, that I have no choice, but to wave the white flag.” he read from a written statement. “Not to lack of effort, but because, I’ve been unable to convince those in higher authority, the business isn’t operating under the requirements of city ordinances.”

In other business, Southeast Boulevard resident Lewis Dowd complained to city council about speeding on his street where the no parking was being enforced. He had complained to council earlier this year about the change in parking, saying he had always had parking on the street since he moved there. Now he said the speeding is worse, describing the street like a race track and expressing concern for children in the neighborhood.

He was very critical of the administration and council and said city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst should not have been able to decide on his own about the no parking. When the issue first came up, Kenst explained that it was already a no parking zone and they were just putting up new signs closer to the area where there was a problem and enforcing it. During a Traffic & Safety Committee meeting in February, there had been discussion of stepped up enforcement regarding speeding on the street and other traffic offenses.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but the no parking didn’t help,” Dowd said.

Councilwoman Cyndy Baronzzi Dickey, who lives on Southeast Boulevard, agreed there was more speeding, but she didn’t know if that was because of the warmer weather or not, and also talked about increased truck traffic. She also said she’s seen less police presence on the road.

Weaver referred Dowd to Councilman Brian Whitehill, who chairs the Traffic & Safety Committee and said he was scheduling another meeting and would be talking with the police chief and Kenst.

Council also heard once again from former councilwoman Mary Lou Popa, who’s been asking for a citywide cleanup for months and said she’s disappointed about the lack of interest by council. The topic has been discussed at two Finance Committee meetings. Brown reminded Popa that he’s told her many times he supports the idea of a cleanup.

Council also held first reading on a new proposed taxicab and transit vehicles ordinance.