Archive for Monday, February 8, 2010

Neighbors complain salvage yard a blight on east-side residential area

Several neighbors in the Brook Creek neighborhood are upset about having a salvage yard near their homes. Neighbors Russ Wiggins, left, and Byron Wiley would like to see some changes at the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center.

Several neighbors in the Brook Creek neighborhood are upset about having a salvage yard near their homes. Neighbors Russ Wiggins, left, and Byron Wiley would like to see some changes at the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center.

February 8, 2010


Residents displeased with local salvage yard

East Lawrence residents are voicing their disdain for the salvage yard near their neighborhood at 12th and Haskell. Residents believe the yard is an eyesore in their community. Enlarge video

Fire calls

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical calls to 1146 Haskell Ave. since 2004.

June 2004 — Vehicle fire, 25 feet from a building

Jan. 25, 2006 — Car fire in the back lot

Oct. 27, 2006 — Car fire in the back lot

Jan. 4, 2007 — Three cars on fire in salvage yard

May 26, 2007 — Salvaged junk vehicle on fire

Jan. 2, 2009 — Rubbish fire. Pile of trash in recycle area caught on fire

Jan. 27, 2010 — Fire involving six vehicles

The heavy equipment shakes their houses.

Trash constantly blows through their front yards, and noise echoes through the nearby salvage yard where seven fires have erupted since June 2004.

Now some residents of the Brook Creek neighborhood in east Lawrence, which is adjacent to the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center, 1146 Haskell Ave., are saying enough is enough.

“It’s an incredible nuisance to our neighborhood,” said Byron Wiley, who lives in the 1200 block of Almira, directly across the street from the salvage yard. “It’s concerning. This is located right next to a neighborhood. ... This should not be here.”

Wiley’s second-story window looks out over piles of scrap metal, bins of aluminum cans and other materials waiting to be recycled. Residents said it’s not unusual for those piles to be stacked at least 20 feet high, looming over the fence that surrounds the business.

While that may be unsightly, it’s the threat of repeated car fires that has the neighbors along Almira street most concerned.

“They must not be doing what they should be doing to prevent this safety hazard from happening,” said Brook Creek resident Andrea Repinsky, 32. “It’s definitely not a safe situation.”

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Chief Mark Bradford said the fire department had been called to the recycling center seven times since 2004, six times to extinguish cars that had caught on fire in the salvage yard. The seventh report was for a small trash fire.

“I don’t know that it’s unusual for what they do,” Bradford said. “When you look at the length of time, no, I wouldn’t say it’s an unusually high number.”

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is conducting an investigation into the business’s practices. KDHE spokeswoman Kristi Pankratz said the department received complaints about the recycling center in 2006, 2007, 2009 and following the most recent fire at the business, involving six cars, on Jan. 27.

KDHE investigators toured the business the day after the fire and were back at the site last week, investigating complaints that the recycling center is “not properly managing auto fluids.”

“They have made some changes to their process,” Pankratz said. “We’re also in the process of providing them further direction to complete the changes.”

The city’s code enforcement division also received a complaint about the business last December. Code director Brian Jimenez said he received a complaint about salvage materials being piled up higher than the fence.

Property owner Bo Killough did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

According to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department, the recycling center property is zoned residential, but long-range planner Amy Brown said it was determined in 2003 to be “a legal nonconforming use.”

That’s something that doesn’t sit well with nearby neighbors.

“It’s zoned residential, and the activities out there just don’t work with houses and neighbors, people trying to live their lives next door,” Repinsky said. “It’s not really right. People should be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of their home without worrying about an industrial facility right down the street.”


sustainabilitysister 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree that Mr. Killough needs to change his practices particularly on keeping his business clean but this recycling center takes practically all materials that can be recycled unlike Walmart. It's the best place in town to do your recycling.

Kris_H 8 years, 2 months ago

When was the recycling center built there, and when were the nearby houses built?

BigPrune 8 years, 2 months ago

Let's see....the complaints started coming in 2006. Did someone nearby either buy a house or rent a house in 2006 and not notice the junk yard? Now they have regrets so let the junk yard man who's been there for years feel their wrath.

Just a hunch. Might be right, then again, I might be wrong.

Amy Heeter 8 years, 2 months ago

It used to be quality tow. A friend of my mom worked there back then. I have never been to this place but it doesn't look real bad from the road. The houses were there before the junk yard.

GmaD321 8 years, 2 months ago

So put a recycling center/salvage yard back out in North Lawrence so that's the first thing folks can see when they enter the fair city of Lawrence. Everyone wants a good recycling center but it's kinda like the homeless shelters--"not in our back yard".

imastinker 8 years, 2 months ago

This salvage yard has been there a long time.

I'm not sure what the neighbors are afraid of - even if a car does catch on fire it's not going to catch the scrap metal on fire and spread to their house. If they mentioned in the ad how they use torches to cut metal and cars they would understand how fires happen. It's a part of doing business. It just takes a small piece of slag in the seat to catch the car on fire.

kansasmutt 8 years, 2 months ago

That location has been some sort of automotive repair business for over 50 years. I would guess maybe some new people moved in like was suggested above this and they don’t like it. A car fire once a year is way below average for a running salvage yard. Most have that many a month. My guess is now the city has plans for a recycling center and will find a way to run them out of the city. They might keep in mind, the land owner Bo has a good lawyer and great resources to battle a small city like Lawrence , if they don’t go by the book. Lawrence hates small businesses , so i see a plan to eliminate the salvage yard brewing already. The zoning has changed, but the business is still grand fathered in .I can`t speak for the owner, but i can say he is a great guy and will do what is right and legal.

William McCauley 8 years, 2 months ago

That owner needs to do a better job of keeping the roadway free and clear of the trash and junk from his place that seems to find it's way outside the fence and around the front and sides of the building. It's gone way down hill over the years, can't drive past the place and not worry about getting a flat tire from all the crap in the road from that place. City should clean up it's eye sore too, next door.

easyliving 8 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like the fire events are minimal and I agree they would probably be contained within the salvage yard itself.

I'm thinking there is a small stream/creek that runs adjacent to the property on the Northside? If the auto fluids are being improperly managed then stormwater run off may be a concern.

They provide a much needed service...if they are following the rules.

imastinker 8 years, 2 months ago

BigW - I don't know anything about this particular yard, but have spent a lot of time in different scrap yards - and people just dump junk all the time there. If it's something hazardous like a computer monitor that they can't throw away they just leave it in front of the place. Then an employee has to go pick all that stuff up all the time, and frequently they have to pay to dispose of it.

thebigspoon 8 years, 2 months ago

This place has been a salvage yard for a long long time ago. Orville Ray owned it.

Ken Lassman 8 years, 2 months ago

I'm all for good neighborhood salvage yards if they are good neighbors in return. If they can clean up their act, they could continue to be a great resource. I can certainly see a problem with toxic smoke, groundwater pollution, trash blowing around, etc.; can't these things be addressed and still make money? If they can't then they either ought to move or let someone else do it who can.

William McCauley 8 years, 2 months ago

imastinker , not at all what I'm talking about! Scraps of metal, wires, cans, junk & trash in general along with a couple tons of mud from the heavy trucks and their fork lift that come in and out of there and on to the parking lot and street, leaving all that crap in the road for residents to drive through, haskell is a mess, but 12th is worse.

dragonfly_28 8 years, 2 months ago

If you don't live near this place like I do you really don't know what your talking about. Because it doesn't affect you like the ones who live near it. Personally, I think it should be shut down. That place also causes a traffic jam when big trucks or cars go in and out of there off of 12th. They take up the whole street and 12th street is not that big to begin with.

skinny 8 years, 2 months ago

If you don't like it move. That place has been there for thirty or forty years. There have been a number of different businesses there over the years. You had to have know the place was there when you moved in. Get real!

lawthing 8 years, 2 months ago

I heard there has been a problem with stolen property ending up there. A couple years ago 6 stolen cars were found on the property with vin, numbers removed.

I also heard they have been wrote up for EPA violations.

Obviously they have a good Lawyer that keeps them from being raided like the guy on 11th and Mass, and Yellow House!

Kris_H 8 years, 2 months ago

OK, sounds like they AND the neighbors have all been there a while. Also (to an admitted complete outsider), it sounds like maybe the owner just isn't as capable of keeping up as he used to be. And, that he or someone else in the business needs to step up and be more responsible for being a better neighbor.

dragonfly_28 8 years, 2 months ago

skinny, some people don't have the luxury of moving. There have been some families in this neighborhood over 40 years. Why should they have to move because a business not caring about the surronding neighborhood.

Here is a question for you. Would you move out if your home has been in the family for generations?

dragonfly_28 8 years, 2 months ago

oneeye, you totally missed my point. Do you really think anyone would offer $150,000 to save a junk yard. Please.

gccs14r 8 years, 2 months ago

Check the foundation erosion on the building on the NW corner of their lot. The creek is undercutting it severely. It won't be long and the whole thing will be in the creek bottom.

If they're cutting apart cars back behind the fence, it's almost a given that toxic fluids are making their way into the groundwater. If they were just a collection point for recycling, that would be one thing, but if they're also doing primary processing of recyclables, that's something else.

sweetiepie 8 years, 2 months ago

I have to agree with the first comment: they are the only place in town that will recycle almost anything (except plastic bags!).

KansasPerson 8 years, 2 months ago

Hooray for them that they "recycle almost anything." But don't you mean that they ACCEPT materials for recycling? If they've got 20-foot piles of stuff back there, they're not recycling it, they're just storing it.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

This place as a auto repair and not much of an auto salvage was kept impeccable by the owners.

It's a matter of ethical business practice.

No trash,fence in excellent condition,don't recall auto fires and just in general quite a nice place of business.

This was more of a place to store towed vehicles.

The current owner simply does not give a damn. The neighborhood had to get the city on him for his truck traffic on neighborhood streets because he would NOT respond to neighborhood requests.

What have soil samples turned up? down by the creek?

Some people have questioned his signage as to whether or not it is within code? It's as much a nuisance as a recycling/retail center.

dragonfly_28 8 years, 2 months ago

Most of the people who live in this area are elderly an unable to take care of their homes to the satisfactory of everyone in Lawrence. However, there are a few rental properties that I completely argree that should do something about the junk piles and exterior of the property.

dragonfly_28 8 years, 2 months ago

Most of the people who live in this are elderly an unable to take care of their homes to the satisfactory of those who are snobbish. However, there are a few rental properties that do need to be tended to by the properties owner.

BlackVelvet 8 years, 2 months ago

if they played hip-hop music there, more folks would be defending them!

hedshrinker 8 years, 2 months ago

When it was simply auto salvage, it was quieter, not so NOISY, SMELLY, HAZARDOUS and COMBUSTIBLE. I live a few blocks away and it's really intolerable at times. I find some of the preceding remarks particularly classist and offensive, but not surprising given many people's attitudes about east and far-east lawrence, ie these areas are sort of sacrifice areas; since for the most part rich and powerful people don't live there, anything goes, who cares. Yes, many people choose to live in these areas BECAUSE they tend to be a little more tolerant of residents who want to go their own way, not be bound by convention but even most of them don't want to live next to a stinking, noisy, dangerous toxic waste dump ....or be subjected to constant 18-wheeler traffic on narrow, unimproved residential "streets". Simply the fact that there may be other out of code properties in the area doesn't alter the truth that this place has really veered into the ditch the past several years. Also, the ad hominem attacks on Byron, the complaining neighbor, are really unwarranted...he's an educated, artistic, caring, talented guy who has been involved in the fruit tree project at New York and other schools among other things. This kind of recycling operation doesn't belong in a residential neighborhood.

kansasmutt 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree it doesnt need to be in a residential area, but it is and not much has been done to improve the entire surounding area in past years. If the city sees fit to buy them out, then that is up to the owners to decide. If the city is using street cleaners every night like is suposed to be done in Lawrence, the debris should get swept up from that. If you look in the building youl see they capture coolant, oils and batteries for recycleing in proper EPA containers. It probably sucks to live near it, but it has been like this for over 40 years. Maybe the city can buy it out for a fair market price and they can move it. That is an option for those who live near it and want to start improving the area. it would be great to see the area fixed up and made to look nice, even the homes could use some sprucing up. But to just run a business out of town is wrong and can bring some legal issues the city cant afford. Yall need to work together with the owner and city and decide on an action. If it was in Russia they would drop a blade on a D-9 CAT and end of story, but this aint Russia, this is america.

monkeyhawk 8 years, 2 months ago

I heard a rumor that somebody merrill knows very, very well was successful in shutting down a business in that hood.

gccs14r 8 years, 2 months ago

Wilbur needs to get out of his mom's basement more often. That stretch of Haskell was repaved with concrete and new curbing back in 2004 or so. They used crappy concrete that's coming apart already, but that's to be expected when we use local paving contractors. The curbing is still there, as is the new bridge. The creek is determined to change its course, though--right under one of the buildings.

pace 8 years, 2 months ago

The person who is calling all the complaints in successfully harasses the company, maybe out of business. Will they buy the commercial real estate, Do they go after the city trash department, or the city garage next? They are the primary neighbors of this business. Does the City use the complaints to get their hands on the property as it is adjunct to theirs? If it is a neighbor, have they talked to the company and asked for solutions? Or do they sit in their spite and think about who else they want to fix.

HardwoodGoat 8 years, 2 months ago

What a worthless story. Seriously!!?? How about a story on the guy 2 blocks away from the recycle center with 30-50 bags of trash in the beds of TWO non mobile pick-up trucks. How do you complain about the smell of dung when you live amongst it?

Its a scrap yard. They aren't pretty. They stink.

I live on the west side and have blight living next to me. After numerous calls to authorities little action was taken by the city. Almost as if I was a nuisance for calling and making her get off her duff. This idiot chains up a dog close to a public sidewalk, stores used motor oil in a 5 gal bucket next to my property line and does not have a functioning exhaust system on a majority of his vehicles. I also think my neighbor is lead to believe that the entire subdivision is his personal parking area. This infestation will always be in Lawrence. If they can live next to me, Lawrence must not be that great of a place to live.

pace 8 years, 2 months ago

If the business is not compliant with health and safety regulation they don't need to be removed, there is no site that isn't upstream. They should not be allowed to operate at the expense of others or the environment. A recycling center certainly does belong in East Lawrence.
A recycling center should be designed not to be a hazard but a service. I was wrong, the company has been contacted and seems not to have responded to specific issues. The issue isn't that business does not belong on a commercial site, but does the business work in a professional way. This is a great site for a buy back/drop off but if it was an ice cream store there would be standards for litter and environment.

windjammer 8 years, 2 months ago

I read sometime ago that Mr. Bo received a award for his enviromentaly friendly farm. Maybe he needs to bring some of his knowledge to town.

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