The Toledo Plan Commission yesterday gave a green light to two controversial projects: a new building for the United Way of Greater Toledo downtown and a proposed auto salvage yard in South Toledo.
The United Way announced in August it planned to build a smaller headquarters and demolish its current home at 1 Stranahan Square.
Yesterday's approval only allows the agency to proceed with plans for the new structure. It must go before the commission again before going forward with demolition.
Bill Kitson, president and chief executive officer of United Way, said he was pleased with the commission's decision.
The Pull-A-Part salvage yard, which would be at 310 and 400 South Westwood Ave., still must go before Toledo City Council's planning and zoning committee next month.
Several dozen neighbors opposing Pull-A-Part wore T-shirts to yesterday's meeting with the message "No junkyard."
Officials from the Atlanta-based auto salvage company told commissioners they would strive to be good neighbors, and argued the area was already zoned for industrial use.
Steve Levetan, a senior vice president with the company, said the business would only generate about 200 vehicles a day in additional traffic.
A number of area residents spoke against the proposal.
"How can putting a junk yard in a neighborhood improve the quality of life?" asked Charles Pohlman, who lives within a half-block of the site.
Other neighbors said they were concerned with the possibility of additional traffic, dust in the air, or other environmental contamination, lowered property values, and increased crime because of people stealing scrap metal.
Ramon Perez, president of the Burroughs Neighborhood Organization, said he is hopeful the neighborhood group will prevail before council. It submitted more than 900 signatures on a petition opposing the yard.
This is the third time Pull-A-Part has tried to build a salvage yard in the city.
In 2007, the company pulled its plans to build at 671 Spencer St., just north of the Toledo Zoo, after pressure from residents and city officials.
Earlier this year, Do-It-Yourself Pull-A-Part Used Auto Parts requested a zoning change to build the yard at 3902 and 3924 South. It pulled its request after the plan commission deferred a vote on the matter.
In approving the United Way's new building request, commissioners were careful to note they were not expressing approval - or disapproval - on the demolition of the agency's current office.
"I want to make it clear we have not stated our opinion [with respect to demolition] by dealing with this [building] first," said Rey Boezi, chairman of the commission.
Commissioners also approved the United Way's request to build a rain garden to hold storm runoff, rather than a retention pond or underground basin.
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