A battle over the future of an east Lawrence recycling center that neighbors contend is operating as an illegal salvage yard could continue into March or April, City Hall leaders said this week.
Officials with the city’s planning office have delivered a new letter of violation that orders the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center to eliminate by Monday much of its outdoor storage of old cars, scrap metal and other materials.
Lawrence attorney Brad Finkeldei said his client intends to appeal the violation notice to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, which likely won’t be prepared to hear the issue until March or April. City code requires that enforcement action be suspended pending the outcome of the appeal.
The owner of the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center, though, said he’ll continue to try to work with neighbors to resolve their concerns related to noise, odor and the general appearance of the property.
“We need to get the neighbors over here so they can really see our property,” said Bo Killough, who has operated the center since 2003. “I think there is some misconception about what we’re doing.”
Killough, for example, said neighbors complained of noise and odor problems between Christmas and New Year’s, but he said his business was not operational during that time. Instead, he thinks some of the noise and odor issues bothering neighbors are coming from the city’s Sanitation Division, which parks all of its trash trucks just north of his business.
“I think somebody needs to see how much noise the city is producing,” Killough said. “Before everybody blames everything on me, people need to take a closer look.”
Killough said he plans to host a meeting with neighbors in the next three to four weeks.
Neighbors, though, said they have documentation — video and audio recordings — that demonstrate how disruptive the business is to the neighborhood.
“It is pretty awful,” said Andrea Repinsky, who lives near the site. “It really takes away my ability to enjoy a peaceful home. It is just a constant stream of noise coming from the salvage yard.”
Repinsky said several neighbors don’t believe the city’s latest violation notice goes far enough in solving the problems. The notice states the business only will be allowed to have “limited palletized or containerized exterior storage.” But the notice doesn’t spell out how much outside storage would be allowed.
Scott McCullough, city director of planning and development services, said it is difficult for his office to an exact square footage restriction on the amount of exterior storage allowed.
But McCullough said the amount will have to be significantly less than a previously submitted site plan that showed the back half of the property being cleared of exterior storage but allowing metal, vehicle and other scrap storage on the front half of the property.
Ultimately, McCullough said the business will need to operate more in line with a description that was given to the department in 2003, when Killough was confirming that his new business would be legal. That description characterized the business as “purchasing returned or rejected housewares and outdoor appliances and furniture from distributors, and salvaging such items to reassemble and sell.”
That is different than what the city is seeing now, McCullough said.
“The current operations have a salvage yard element to it,” he said.
The business is operating on property that currently is zoned for residential uses. But the business is allowed to operate, Killough contends, because the property has a long history as legal “nonconforming use” from its days as a yard for an auto towing company. But neighbors contend that the property sat vacant long enough that it has lost its ability to operate with such industrial uses.
The Board of Zoning Appeals will consider many of those arguments when it hears the case. After the Board of Zoning Appeals, the case can be appealed to Douglas County District Court.