Scrap recycler gets reprieve in south Modesto

kcarlson@modbee.comJuly 16, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
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    E-mail: kcarlson@modbee.com

— County officials granted a hearing next month for a south Modesto metal recycling business that neighbors consider a nuisance.

On a 4-0 vote Tuesday evening, Stanislaus County's Board of Supervisors gave the temporary reprieve to Central Valley Recycling after the business asked for time to show it can reduce its impact on the neighborhood. Several residents urged the board to initiate action to shut down the operation.

Supervisor Dick Monteith was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

County leaders will hear more testimony Aug. 20 before deciding whether to start an abatement process on the scrap metal recycling operation at 524 S. Ninth St.

"I think something has to change out there," Supervisor Bill O'Brien said. "I still think they need to have their fair day to be heard."

Supervisor Jim DeMartini, whose district includes the South Ninth commercial strip, said he didn't see "any way to mitigate something like this, but I am willing to give them until Aug. 20."

Representatives of Central Valley Recycling said they will prepare a plan to reduce the noise and address other complaints from neighbors.

In the past year, the county has heard numerous complaints from neighbors who charge that dust stirred by the operation covers their cars and homes and the clamor of heavy equipment persists six days a week. A county code enforcement officer shot a video to verify the complaints and showed it during Tuesday's meeting.

Rebecca Harrington said nearby residents deserve better than an "unsightly view of a mountain of scrap" and thick dust that can aggravate asthma. She said the neighborhood is quiet only on Sundays when the noisy machines are idle.

In 2009, the county approved a three-year business license for Central Valley to recycle scrap metal. After hearing complaints from neighbors last year, staff put a hold on the license renewal until the complaints could be investigated. The license renewal was denied in September after the complaints were verified; the county's code enforcement unit ordered Central Valley in April to cease the operation.

The county's Nuisance Abatement Hearing Board declared the operation a nuisance June 27.

Stanley Goblirsch, one of the property owners, said the county's director of planning and community development was reluctant to issue the 2009 business license, but agreed after DeMartini took the official to the site.

Mark Niskanen, a land use planner assisting Central Valley, acknowledged that noise and dust were a problem, but the business paid for a noise analysis and needs time to develop measures. The business has proposed a 10-foot concrete wall to contain noise.

Another representative said large equipment was moved 150 feet back from the property line, and rock was laid and a water truck is run to prevent dust clouds. Allowing the business to continue would preserve jobs for 23 employees, he said.

County officials said the business license was approved four years ago because, at the time, the operation seemed consistent with the commercial zone. But the scrap metal operation became more intensive as cars and trucks were dismantled and recycled.

DeMartini said last week that the scrap metal business needs to move elsewhere. An enforcement action would not prevent the business from recycling aluminum cans, bottles and cardboard.

Modesto resident Jose Hernandez, and his two sons, told the board the metal recycling doesn't blend with the neighborhood. His son, Gustavo, is a UC Merced student and needs quiet time for his studies, he said.

If the operation is allowed to continue, "the neighborhood is never going to be quiet like the way it was before," Jose Hernandez said.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.


AT A GLANCE

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors took the following action Tuesday:

• Established a $152,825 budget for repairing the former county animal shelter on Finch Road, near the Modesto airport. In the past year, vandals stripped the copper wiring from the vacant building. The county agreed to pay for repairs before it leases the shelter to the Wags and Whiskers Rescue of Modesto. Insurance will reimburse the county for repair costs, minus a $20,000 deductible.

• Approved an office space plan for the Community Services Agency, which includes moving the Women, Infant and Children Program from the second floor to first floor of the CSA facility on East Hackett Road. A faulty elevator created an inconvenience for WIC program clients. A StanWORKs training unit will move to a leased office on Third Street in Turlock.

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