The Washington Planning and Zoning Commission Monday rejected a request for a special use permit to operate a recycling and salvage center at the former Sporlan Valve plant.

Jeff Gardner, the owner of Franklin County Recycling and Salvage, LLC, is seeking a special use permit to operate the business at 1699 W. Main St.

The property previously was a Sporlan Valve plant, but has been vacant for a number of years. According to city staff it is zoned M-2 heavy industrial but given the nature of the proposed use and the requirement for outdoor storage of equipment and materials, a special use permit is required to obtain occupancy for the intended use.

Several residents and property owners to the east of the building expressed concerns about the impact of a recycling and salvage yard on property values.

The planning commission voted 5-3 against the request. Those voting in favor of the request were Carolyn Witt, John Borgmann and Chuck Watson. Tom Holdmeier abstained from voting.

Shawn Mayall, owner of S-K Contractors, told the planning commission that the company recently purchased lots to develop to the east of the property in Mount Carmel Estates.

He said that is not a proper location for a recycling and salvage business.

“There is a time and a place but not next to where people live,” Mayall said. “I think it will open a big can of worms. I don’t think it is fair and you can’t do that to residents who have been there forever.”

In addition to Mount Carmel Estates, there are homes along Laura Lane also to the east of the building.

The property is adjoined by heavy industrial uses to the west, Union Pacific Railroad property to the north and agricultural and residential property to the south. The site plan proposes to utilize the existing building and parking lot, while creating a new storage area to the rear of the lot.

The plan also shows a new loading dock in the storage area as well.

According to city staff, given the existing zoning and the property’s location in the industrial park, the proposed use is not inappropriate for the property. However, because of the property’s proximity to the residential uses and the intensity and unsightliness of a recycle center and salvage yard, appropriate measures should be taken to adequately screen the use from the neighboring properties.

Borgmann added that another industrial business would not need a special use permit to operate in the same location due to the zoning of the lot.

“There is a heck of a difference between that and a recycling and salvage yard,” Mayall responded.

“You could get an industry and have no say and no fence,” Borgmann noted.

The staff recommended the recycle and salvage storage area shall be completely screened from neighboring properties by a 10-foot solid privacy fence and that no portion of the parking area as shown on the submitted site plan shall be used as a storage area.

Resident Objections

Resident Karen Albert said her property backs up to the former Sporlan plant which can be seen from her back deck year-round.

“I don’t think that the place to have a recycling center is next to a neighborhood,” she said.

Another resident, Sue Holdmeier, said she is concerned about the noise the business could create.

“We live in our backyard from May to September,” she said. “I don’t think a salvage yard is what we need there.”

Jenny Dieckhaus stated she can see the entire former Sporlan facility from her home and noted that there is a retention pond on the east side of the property that feeds into a nearby creek.

“We’re concerned about property values,” she said. “Please give this good consideration. I’m pleading with you to think about it.”

Tim Hoeing stated there is a “downhill slide” on the property and water would run off toward the east properties.

Owner Speaks

Gardner said he plans for all of the operations to be conducted inside the building. The facility where he is operating now at 6365 Bluff Road is about 12,000 square feet and the Sporlan building is approximately 100,000 square feet.

He added that the only vehicles in the parking lot would be licensed

Gardner said he would erect a 10-foot corrugated metal fence that would resemble the sides of a pole barn that would “wrap around the entire back.”

Borgmann added that the fence would be located next to the parking lot and not on the property line, so there would be more of the facility shielded from sight.

Gardner also addressed the retention pond concerns, stating that all vehicles to be salvaged are drained before they would be on the lot.

“I do not want to hurt the environment,” he said. “I want to help it.”

The Washington City Council still must review the planning commission’s recommendation.