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Published: 12/8/2008

Final hearing set on South Toledo salvage yard

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Linda Narges, who lives on Southview Drive within sight of the proposed salvage yard, said last week that she intends to move if Pull-A-Part gets approved. Linda Narges, who lives on Southview Drive within sight of the proposed salvage yard, said last week that she intends to move if Pull-A-Part gets approved.
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The battle over a proposed auto salvage yard in South Toledo continues this week as neighbors prepare to make final pleas for the city to scrap the plan.

Toledo City Council's Zoning and Planning Committee is set to hear Wednesday from proponents and critics of Do-It-Yourself Pull-A-Part Used Auto Parts, which wants to put a branch of its national salvage and sales operation on 19 1/2 acres of land along South Westwood Avenue near South Avenue and the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

The deal would involve two lots at 310 and 400 South Westwood Ave. The parcels are zoned for general industrial, but are across from a residential area.

The meeting represents a next-to-last hurdle for Pull-A-Part after it received a unanimous thumbs-up last month from the Toledo Plan Commission. Following either a pro, con, or neutral recommendation Wednesday - the last opportunity for public comment - the request for a special-use permit will be scheduled for a final vote by the full City Council.

Leading the charge against Pull-A-Part is the Burroughs Neighborhood Organization, which says it has gathered more than 1,000 petition signatures against the salvage yard and gained sympathetic ears from State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs, and Toledo Public Schools Superintendent John Foley, who all have written letters to the city against the plan.

Several dozen residents wore "No junkyard" T-shirts to last month's plan commission hearing and expressed concerns about the possibilities of environmental contamination, dust in the air, additional traffic, lowered property values, and crime from people stealing scrap metal.

Many also share Mr. Foley's concerns about the effects of more noise and traffic on students attending Burroughs Elementary and Arlington Elementary schools on South Avenue, both several blocks away from the proposed site.

One of the more outspoken neighbors is Linda Narges, 59, who lives on Southview Drive within sight of the proposed salvage yard. She said last week that she intends to move if Pull-A-Part gets approved.

"I will be selling my house if it goes through. I don't want the noise - that's my retirement home," said Ms. Narges, who bought her one-story, two-bedroom house for $83,500 last year.

But not all neighbors are against the salvage yard. Mike Whitmer, 58, whose house is on the corner of South and Westwood, said he has now warmed to the plan after hearing Pull-A-Part officials present details on the project. Mr. Whitmer was initially hesitant because of what he described as inaccurate information being given out by Pull-A-Part opponents in order to rile up neighbors.

"Now I am somewhat welcoming them to the neighborhood," he said. "This is an industrial area; you're gonna have dirt, you're gonna have a little noise."

Atlanta-based Pull-A-Part, which describes itself as the "Rolls Royce of do-it-yourself used auto part superstores," stocks its yards with 1,500 or more used vehicles and charges customers to disassemble the parts they need.

The company has 23 locations built or planned from Louisiana to Cleveland, and has won environmental awards in recent years for its waste management and recycling practices.

Senior Vice President Steve Levetan said the proposed Toledo site would create 20 to 25 full-time jobs. He could not provide salary figures but said they are "good-paying jobs" with medical benefits and an employer-matching 401(k) program.

The Westwood site represents Pull-A-Part's third attempt at a Toledo location. Last year, the company withdrew plans for branches at 671 Spencer St. and along South Avenue between Byrne and Wenz roads following resident opposition.

While Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was opposed to Pull-A-Part at Spencer Street, he said last week that he is in favor of this latest site.

Mr. Levetan said: "We've said from the very beginning that we think Toledo is a good market for us."

Formerly occupied by Schoen Paving, the 310 Westwood parcel is presently home to Khan's Autocare Inc. and its car sales division. Already looking a bit like a junk yard, the property is encircled by a rusty fence and trash-strewn ditch, and is spotted with old cars, tires, uprooted house fixtures, and a landlocked boat.

Next door at 400 Westwood is the former concrete-block headquarters of Manufacturers Enameling Corp., a production automotive supplier which closed in 2006. The property is owned by brothers J. Patrick and Richard Dooley, who still operate a small hang tool and rack manufacturing company in the building.

Richard Dooley said he would sell their parcel for $510,000 to Pull-A-Part if the permit is approved, and he doesn't buy arguments that a salvage yard will bring unbearable noise and traffic. "We had semis going in here 24 hours a day. We even had helicopters landing here in the back parking lot," he said.

Complicating the deal for Pull-A-Part is an apparent reversal in position by the University of Toledo, whose Scott Park campus begins on the north side of the railroad track.

UT officials initially told Pull-A-Part that they were neutral. But after the Burroughs Neighborhood Organization and Senator Fedor appealed to Dr. Jacobs, the university president asked the city to reject the permit request.

Dr. Jacobs wrote in a letter that a salvage yard would negatively impact efforts to bring high-tech investment to the area through its Science, Technology, and Innovation Enterprises, formerly known as UT's Science and Technology Corridor.

While Pull-A-Part may bring jobs and economic activity, it would not assist in the city's transformation to a knowledge-based economy, Dr. Jacobs wrote.

"This seems like a short-term fix when a long-term strategy is what's needed," Dr. Jacobs said Friday in statement.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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