Salem bans any new scrap yards

SALEM – City council voted 6-1 Tuesday to prohibit scrap yards in M-1 and M-2 zoning districts, with Councilman Clyde Brown the lone dissenter.

“There’s no need – just enforce the ordinance we have,” he said regarding his “no” vote.

Brown has been very vocal in his opinion against a metals and recycling business on West Pershing Street which he contends has been violating the rules with its operation and should have never been approved in the first place.

The idea behind the change to the ordinances dealing with M1 light industrial and M2 heavy industrial zones was to prohibit auto wrecking lots, scrap yards or junk yards in the city from happening. Other city officials said the change will prevent what happened from happening again, making it clear what’s permitted and what isn’t.

Council also held second reading on a proposed ordinance restricting the drilling of oil and gas wells to M-2 industrial sites in the city and at least 500 feet from any structure in the city.

The city Planning Commission had sent all three zoning changes back to council after agreeing to move them forward. During a public hearing prior to the council meeting, council heard comments from a handful of people regarding the ordinances.

Caitlin Johnson, an organizer with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, had addressed the drilling issue during a Planning Commission meeting and addressed it again during the public hearing.

“I think it’s great that the city of Salem wants to assert itself and protect the citizens,” she said, even though the state of Ohio retains sole control over the permitting of oil and gas wells after taking away local control.

She said the city still has some things it can do, noting that the city controls whether any city-owned land inside the city limits can be leased for drilling. The city already signed a lease deal with Chesapeake earlier this year for acreage outside of the city limits, restricted to non-surface mineral rights.

She said the city needs to also consider air emissions and the fact that people are living and working in the M-2 zone on West Pershing Street.

“Passing this ordinance is not the way to ensure protection of the citizens,” she said, adding there’s a lot more the city should be doing and paying attention to, especially air quality.

When asked about her stance after the hearing, Johnson said if they’re going to ban drilling, they should ban it altogether in the city. She said it’s probably not the most effective way to exercise control over oil and gas development.

Prospect Street resident Diane Bates expressed concern about health issues, especially if there’s any drilling in the Industrial Park area close to the former Nease Chemical site and what would happen to the water as a result. She doesn’t want to see an oil rig in the city.

West Pershing Street resident Patty Fortune questioned why council would want to have a well in the city and asked “why not just say it’s not allowed in the whole city?” She contended that if the city is restricting it to M-2, then the city is saying it’s okay in M-2 and issuing an invitation for it.

As a resident in an M-2 district, she said they’re already dealing with the scrap yard and now council is saying it’s okay to drill there, too. Johnson said she agreed with Fortune, saying it doesn’t seem fair to restrict the drilling to an area already with environmental problems.

Councilwoman Cyndy Baronzzi Dickey reiterated that the state of Ohio has control over where wells can be drilled – the city has no control. Lewis Dowd, of Southeast Boulevard, asked how the proposed ordinance gives the city any control.

Councilman Dave Nestic admitted they were right, that the state has legislated away the local control, but he also said while nobody wants to hurt the citizens of Salem, he doesn’t want to inhibit or prohibit development. He doesn’t want to hurt small driller operations.

According to Nestic, the state did what it did for a reason, saying if everybody had their own laws and resolutions on where the drilling can happen, the industry wouldn’t come in. Johnson begged to differ on that, saying that Pennsylvania has local control and that didn’t seem to stop the industry there.

She suggested people come to a showing of “The Triple Divide,” a movie made from a journalist’s standpoint about the oil and gas fracking in Pennsylvania at 6 p.m. Monday in the Memorial Building gym. David Celebrezze, an expert on Ohio rules and regulations from the Ohio Environmental Council, will be there also.

As for comments on the scrap yard legislation, Fortune and fellow West Pershing Street resident Richard Gfeller spoke out, with Gfeller saying he didn’t know why the city allowed the scrap yard on his street.

“I think the city ought to be ashamed for putting it there,” he said, complaining about the noise.

Fortune questioned whether the new building the company purchased will fall under the new rules or be grandfathered like the current business.