CLEARFIELD– A group of property owners alleged that Novey Recycling has been violating township code and asked the Lawrence Township Board of Supervisors to help them protect their property investments at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
On behalf of the group, Ben Timko of Martin Street Extension formally complained about code violations against Novey Recycling. Timko left the board with approximately 15 packages of pictures of exact code violations, which he said are all outlined in township code.
For example, Timko said Novey Recycling had violations regarding the locations of junk/scrap motor vehicles there, and the junk yard not being properly maintained, which is menacing to the nearby community.
He also said code doesn’t permit there to be garbage or other organic wastes and requires setback from property lines, which should be enclosed by a fence or screened by trees when deemed necessary by the board. He said the code prohibits junk from being piled higher than eight feet.
He said they’ve witnessed first-hand the growth and sprawl of the used auto parts business at Novey Recycling. In addition, he said cranes are operating during the early morning hours.
“We are here in hopes the board will deem this compliance necessary for loss of our investment and properties. We’re asking for the township’s help in protecting our property and in protecting our investment. There is a lot of private money involved here,” said Timko.
According to him, the property is currently zoned limited industrial, which it wasn’t at the time they invested in the property. He said he didn’t realize that limited industrial constituted cranes, loaders, dozers, tri-axles, etc.
He said they had a variety of property issues with steep slope banks set through the property lines without vegetation or trees. He said there are also issues with their waterline easement.
When he purchased his property nine years ago, Timko said Novey Recycling had three scrap piles and didn’t have its business located there. Back then he said there wasn’t even bathrooms and water and its main use was for storage purposes.
“I don’t want to stare at Sam’s Club trailers and 2,000 junk cars,” he said. “And, township code clearly states if you keep a junk automobile for more than 15 days, it has to be completely in an enclosed building, not in public view. When we invested in our property, we felt that township code would stand for us. That’s what we’re asking for.
“I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want the dust. I don’t want the garbage. I just don’t want to see it. You invest one-half million of your own money and then watch two lots disappear, because no one is ever going to buy it. You’re just going to sit there and stare at 2,000 car windshields and six Sam’s Club trailers. When you invest your money, you rely on the township to protect you.”
Timko pointed out that he doesn’t have any personal vendettas against Novey Recycling. He said, “I’m not here to be a jerk. I’m not here to be a prick.” Board Chairman Glenn Johnston replied, “No. You’re here to protect your property and investment.”
Timko said he would like to be able to sell his lots, but the prevailing wind blows his way. He said they acquire dust and gasoline smells, and for the first two years, he lived there, it didn’t bother him. But the current “sprawl” that keeps “growing and growing” can’t be covered with trees.
Timko said he had neither contacted code enforcement about the alleged violations nor shared his information with Code Enforcement Officer Agatha Lauder-English.Johnstonsaid the township will further investigate the complaint with code enforcement and perhaps counsel about where ordinances and the property currently stand. He felt it was reasonable to give feedback within the next 30 to 45 days, or at this meeting next month.
Solicitor James Naddeo said Novey Recycling had rights to have its facility. In addition, he said the property owners have rights for the property to be protected in accordance with the township code. He believed these issues could be sorted out so that everyone was in compliance and happy. He didn’t believe that if Novey Recycling complied that it would infringe upon its business.
Michael Boal of Novey Recycling said they have three separate licenses for the junk yard and are therefore covered by more than one license. He said the business is 106 years old in the community, and they only moved the scale and the building from downtown to the current location.
According to him, Novey Recycling has well more than $1 million invested in its property. He said they have GeoTech developing an engineering plan, which is under way. When the excavation is completed, he said they intend on planting paper wood along the Swisher-Novey property line and then where the property line takes a step up.
Boal said they’ve moved all the scrap piles back. He has maps of the property from every year, and he said it’s obvious there are more than three scrap piles. He said it’s always been a scrap yard and he believed Novey Recycling acquired the property and was there long before there ware codes in place. He said it would be an issue for Lauder-English to investigate.
“We’re 106 years old in the business. This isn’t something that just popped up,” he said.
So far as the 8-foot high scrap piles, he believed Novey Recycling was located there before fencing regulations existed. He said that Naddeo would be able to explore this matter for the township.
In addition, he said he didn’t have to move back his scrap piles. However, he’d told Timko he understood that he’d built a $500,000 home there, and they wanted to be neighbors.
Boal encouraged the supervisors to visit the Novey Recycling property. He said garbage dumpsters are on-site and pick up occurs weekly and he can provide receipts. He said his tires go through the Clearfield County Solid Waste Authority and the only thing they keep on-site is broken pallets.
According to him, Novey Recycling closes down at 12:30 p.m. Saturdays and isn’t in operation Sundays. He said the normal start time is 7:30 a.m. and the normal work day ends at 5 p.m. Anytime they must operate afterhours they try not to use any equipment.
He said Novey Recycling has received approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies, and it hasn’t been found in violation.
“We do everything to maintain our business. I don’t think you’ll find a cleaner scrap yard, especially of our size, 29 acres, inPennsylvania,” said Boal. “There’s always going to be junk cars and scrap metal. That’s our business and we can’t keep it from growing. We want it to see it succeed and become bigger.”
Naddeo said he heard “grandfathering” used consistently throughout the course of the discussion. By grandfathering, he said that means legally someone cannot be zoned out of existence. If there is an existing use and a zoning ordinance is adopted changing the character of the area, it becomes a “non-conforming use” and grandfathered.
“Otherwise, you would be confiscating property . . . There isn’t any zoning that prohibits it from expanding the use of what it was when it became non-conforming. I think the misconception here is that once you have a zoning ordinance, you impose certain criteria on the operation of the facility and require it to comply whether they were existent for 100 years or two years.”
Naddeo further explained that clearly, the facility was grandfathered and has a right to exist. And, clearly, the facility must comply with the zoning and he didn’t observe any regulations with which the operators couldn’t comply with a reasonable amount of effort.