Panel send new scrap rules back to Salem council

SALEM – The city Planning Commission accepted changes to two ordinances to prohibit auto wrecking lots, scrap yards or junk yards in M1 light industrial and M2 heavy industrial zones.

The decision Monday sends both proposals back before city council for further discussion, but not in the way that Councilman Clyde Brown requested when he addressed the commission.

He said he wanted the ordinances tabled by the Planning Commission and sent back to city council for more clarification. His contention was that the ordinances were fine as written and that a business on Pershing Street was in violation due to the noise and not doing everything in an enclosed building.

Brown has made no secret of his feelings against Downtown Metals & Recycling, telling the commission that he’s been dealing with the issue since January 2012 when he first took office for his second stint on council.

He said the ordinances are very clear on what can and can’t be done, referring to a section in M1 which refers to the allowance of manufacturing uses that “do not create any more danger to health and safety in surrounding areas and which do not create any more offensive noise, vibration, smoke, dust, odor, heat or glare than that generally associated with industries of the type specifically permitted.”

Another section in M2 refers to a permitted use for “manufacturing processes conducted wholly within an enclosed building consisting in whole or in part of cutting, forging, stamping, casting, extruding, drilling, rolling, welding, brazing, soldering, sawing, cleaning, sand or shot blasting, grinding, enameling, painting, galvanizing, finishing, heat treating machining.”

The city sent a letter to the business saying they were out of compliance with the section regarding processes conducted inside an enclosed building because they were cutting up items outside. Since then, the business has appeared to be in compliance, although Brown has repeatedly contended that they are not. He asked if the law director was filing an injunction and was told the city would not win because the city permitted the business to come in and operate, something that Brown said should have never happened.

City Planning and Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey said the Planning Commission had a legitimate request from city council to either recommend approval or disapproval for the changes and that no other action would satisfy the requirements of the code. He said the purpose of the amendments is to stop any additional junk yards from coming into the city.

He also pointed out that he learned recently that the owner of Downtown Metals purchased the former Pittsburgh Foundry building and wants to conduct operations there and is aware they have to be totally contained within the building.

Mayor John Berlin, who is a member of the Planning Commission, spoke in favor of the changes, saying the addition of the paragraphs against junk yards gives a little bit of teeth to the proposition that this type of activity is not wanted.

Commission Chairman John Panezott said the changes offer a protection. Berlin added the law director recommended the changes for clarification.

“We’re not looking at whether an existing business is legal or illegal,” he said.

The commission also agreed to set a special meeting for 4:30 p.m. Thursday regarding a proposed ordinance dealing with oil and gas extraction which states a vertical bore well or fracking horizontal well shall be considered an industrial activity and shall be restricted to M2 industrial zones and wells shall not be conducted within 500 feet of any existing building or structure.

The proposed ordinance had its first reading at a special council meeting on July 8.