A yearlong stalemate is still that, as neither the owner of an Elmira metal recycling operation nor Woolwich Township appear ready to alter their respective positions.
Frank Rattasid, owner of 86 Auto and Metal Recyclers, wants the township to approve uses beyond the wrecking yard, while planners want to see a formal application before moving ahead. The biggest hurdle appears to be environmental concerns, as the site at 39 Arthur St. N. is home to contaminants from decades of automotive use and, earlier, as a municipal dump.
Addressing Woolwich council Tuesday night, Rattasid asked for some cooperation with the metal recycling component of the business, which has been operating contrary to zoning on the property while the township is “looking the other way.”
The alternative, he said, is a noisy return to auto wrecking on a much larger scale.
His preference is to provide a full-service metal recycling option for township and surrounding residents.
“Do you think this is an essential service or not?” he asked. “If you don’t think it’s an essential service, then we’ll close the steel yard at the end of the month.”
Since opening its doors last year, the business has served some 7,000 people and recycled three million pounds of steel.
“We’re either valuable to the township or we’re not.”
Councillors weren’t swayed by the call for action, with Mayor Sandy Shantz noting it’s not as simple as supporting the idea of recycling.
Instead, Rattasid will have to apply for a zoning change or perhaps a minor variance to bring the operation into compliance.
“It’s not that we won’t rezone it, it’s that there’s a process,” said Shantz.
Director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley said the township has had many talks with Rattasid, but has thus far not seen any formal applications.
He acknowledged that the cost and potential findings of the environmental studies that would come with a formal submission are a “real stumbling block.”
Given the history of the site, part of which contains an old municipal dump, council seemed somewhat sympathetic towards Rattasid’s concerns – any contamination on the site long predates his ownership.
While there are likely a variety of contaminants on the property, Coun. Mark Bauman noted that pinpointing the source makes the picture much cloudier. He suggested some kind of cost-sharing for the environmental studies and, if needed, any remediation.
The township is already looking into an issue with methane from the former dump site. A venting system had been installed years ago, but more recently it was decommissioned and removed before a problem was discovered anew.
Woolwich is waiting on input from the Ministry of the Environment at this point.
Kennaley said more studies are needed, particularly for those parts of the metal recycling property that haven’t been investigated as part of the methane situation.