The council approved a rezoning request Nov. 5 that will allow USA Metal Recycling to set up shop at 100 N. Morgan Road near Interstate 40. The approval changes the area’s rezoning from moderate industrial to a 23.5- acre planned unit development (PUD).
The unanimous decision was reached despite written and verbal protests from area business owners and a planning commission recommendation to deny the proposal. Commissioners agreed the proposed use was not consistent with the area’s existing development.
David Bloom, chief financial officer for Bloom Electric Services, said the group is pursuing other “remedies” in hopes the recycling center will halt its plan to build. Bloom Electric owns and operates about 27 acres of land close to the proposed center.
One option involves a legal challenge in Oklahoma County District Court, Bloom said.
“But we don’t want to throw good money after bad, either,” he said.
However, he was not specific about other action the group is considering.
Regardless, all property owners wrote in protest letters to the planning commission that the value of their land will go down once the recycling center is built.
“No one wants to be near a place that is constantly shredding or crushing cars all day,” Bloom said.
Showing skepticism about the approval process, Bloom believes the decision to allow the rezoning was sealed before the council meeting began.
“The rails were greased, and it went right through,” he said. “There was 100 percent support for it. We’re all still wondering why.”
Bill Beardslee, regional operations manager for Inland Truck Parts and Service, said his company has plans to withdraw a $15 million building project on vacant land south of the USA Metal Recycling site.
“That type of business doesn’t fit into this type of industrial (zoning). Itcreates a neighborhood that we won’t be a part of,” he said.
Inland Truck intended to begin construction on its new facility in 2016.
“We thought this (location) was perfect, but people don’t want to take their trucks to a greasy pit,” Beardslee said, referencing potential pollutants from the recycling center.
Tom Smith, chief operating officer for the recycling company, said his firm doesn’t want any neighboring businesses to relocate.
“But I don’t see any logical reason for denying it,” he told the council.
Smith defended his company’s practices during the council meeting while citing policies that are friendly to the environment and nearby neighbors.
USA Metal Recycling has nine locations in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Chouteau is the only current Sooner State location, but a center also is planned for Tulsa, according to the company website.
USA Metal Recycling purchases ferrous and nonferrous scrap metal of all grades from the public, manufacturers, demolition contractors and individuals. The scrap is processed, sorted and prepared for sale to steel mills, brokers and exporters across the country and internationally, the firm’s website shows.
It also offers on-the-spot pickup and demolition services for items such as vehicles, lawn mowers, refrigerators and air conditioners.
Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner said the only change in the approved rezoning is the addition of outdoor storage areas.
“I understand the protesters not wanting the recycling center next to them, but the fact remains metal recycling centers are needed,” Greiner said. “I think the protections put into the PUD will protect surrounding properties.”
Some of those protections include a 12-foot fence built with masonry materials and a building façade constructed with stone.
Greiner said the loud booms typically heard at another OKC recycling center will not be a problem at the USA Metal site.
“They drain all the gas and fluids from vehicles before putting them in the shredder,” he said.
Greiner is hopeful Inland Truck officials will review their plan to relocate the firm’s building project.
“It’s certainly within their rights, but I would hope they would change their mind,” he said. “But I didn’t see [relocation] as a reason for me to oppose it,” he said.
Not buying it
Still, property owners in the area aren’t buying it.
Donald B. Nevard, president of Westhall Commerce Center, located at Reno Avenue and Morgan Road, wrote in a protest letter, “We believe the character of Westhall Commerce Center will be severely and negatively impacted by the location of a metal recycling plant, [which] we believe will create extraordinary noise and sound pollution and most likely severe sight pollution.”
John P. Lopez, vice president of operations for Lopez Foods Inc., wrote in a separate protest letter that two decades of work could be diminished with a heavy industrial business like USA Metal Recycling.
“We and other companies have invested a considerable amount of money knowing that the area would be well planned and controlled,” Lopez wrote. “Rezoning this single parcel of land will no doubt lead to a reduction of investment in the immediate area, disturb the overall business plan for this area, lower property values and disturb what we and others have spent over 20 years trying to develop.”