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Hearing set on rezoning bid
Issues raised on scrap metal recycling plans

Monday, August 26, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a rezoning application to locate a new scrap metal recycling business in the former Ridgeway Clock facility.

The project has raised concerns about noise, traffic and other issues among some people living near the site.

D.H. Griffin Wrecking Co. Inc. has asked for approximately 18.4 acres at 1131 Mica Road in Ridgeway District to be rezoned from Industrial District I-1 to Limited Industrial District I-2. The company plans to operate a scrap metals recycling facility and automobile junkyard, with a “U-Pull-It” auto parts yard, according to a letter from the company to the county.

Between eight to 10 full-time jobs would be added initially, with local residents hired to fill both skilled and unskilled positions, the letter stated. It added that a site manager would be moved to the Ridgeway facility.

The local site — which would operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and close on Sundays — would accept scrap metals and vehicles from residents, process them in “an environmentally friendly manner” and then ship them to steel mills, such as Steel Dynamics in Roanoke, the letter stated. Scrap metals then would be recycled into steel used to make new goods.

Vehicles which have valuable parts would be inventoried and stored for 60 to 90 days at the facility while the parts were sold to retail customers, the letter stated. Once useable parts were removed, those vehicles also would be processed for scrap.

The D.H. Griffin family of companies — which provides contract demolition, environmental abatement and remediation, site preparation, infrastructure installation, relocation and removal, commercial construction, general contracting and scrap metal services — stated in the letter that the Ridgeway facility will “not be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals, comfort or general welfare,” the letter stated.

However, several residents expressed concerns about things such as noise, esthetics, the potential of gas and other liquids to leak, roads that are inadequate for the size of trucks traveling to the proposed facility, increased traffic, the “negative impact and stigma of the facility as opposed to its benefits,” the upkeep of the property and that the proposed business could be detrimental to the value of adjoining or nearby properties, according to a letter and petition signed by some affected landowners.

Ridgeway District Supervisor H.G. Vaughn said he also is concerned. He wants any new business moving into the area to complement the primarily residential neighborhood, not be detrimental, “and would allow people to be able to enjoy their properties. I’m still weighing this issue and looking at what I would want if I lived in that neighborhood,” he said.

He also has researched D.H. Griffin and found it is a “reputable company and has been around for a number of years,” Vaughn said. “From my investigation so far, the company tries to do everything they can do to be a good neighbor. Still, when you hear the word ‘junkyard’ or ‘junk cars,’ it creates a stigma.”

In March, Vaughn said he was invited to tour both the local building in Ridgeway and the company’s headquarters in Greensboro, N.C.

“I went over first to the Ridgeway plant, and basically saw a vacant industrial site that had begun to grow up inside,” he said. There were some signs of vandalism, including broken windows, a cut fence, a pile of wood and an area nearby that looked as if it was used to build a fire, he said.

Vaughn said he thought it was evidence that someone had been living in the former plant and had built a fire to stay warm during cold months. Also, an old building located on the site had “what looked like bullet holes in it, and that concerned me for neighbors and the community,” he said.

The current layout at the former manufacturing facility is off of Mica Road, down the hill and out of sight. However, the back side of the proposed facility likely would be visible on Phospho Lithia Springs Road, which is behind the site of the existing building, Vaughn said.

“Right now, it’s grown up and the foliage is a lot thicker than it has been, but this has been an unusual year” for rain, he said.

The company’s headquarters in Greensboro “is huge. I don’t know how many acres, but I know they’ve been there for years,” Vaughn said. Items collected by the company are arranged and orderly, according to Vaughn, who also noted that “a nice subdivision, probably median-ranged houses price-wise” had been built nearby after the scrap metal facility located there.

He was impressed by the fact that the homes “had been built after the D.H. facility was there. I thought it must not be too objectionable since people bought homes next to it,” he said.

Vaughn also said the company’s proposed hours of operation — 12 hours daily Monday through Friday and seven hours on Saturdays — “are a lot of hours, and I am concerned that those hours not all be noisy areas, and that there be some quiet hours.”

Vaughn said he has voiced his concerns to company officials and would like some assurances or voluntary commitments from the company for some type of noise control and a way to curb any unsightliness.

So far, he has not made a decision on the project.

“On one side, I see the need for the property in Ridgeway to be used to prevent the things that might go on in a vacant property,” he said. “On the other side, there are concerns to not do anything that would be detrimental to the community. I’m still struggling with the two sides.”

The rezoning request was endorsed by the Henry County Planning Commission and will be the subject of the supervisors’ public hearing during their meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Henry County Administration Building.

If the supervisors approve the rezoning, a Special Use Permit also will be required.

The application for that permit has been filed and, pending approval of the rezoning request, will be heard by the Board of Zoning Appeals on Aug. 28, according to board documents.


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