For some scrap processors looking to expand
their operations in the glowing scrap metal markets of the past
few years, it must seem like hard times when they are dealing
with recalcitrant local officials and hysterical neighbors.
Scrap metal prices are at all-time highs, and demand for
ferrous scrap by domestic steelmakers as well as those overseas
has been strong for the past few years. In such a healthy
economic environment, it's normal for industries to expand
their operations, regardless of whether they are making
computers or scrapping them.
Unfortunately for scrap metal recyclers, such
hopes and plans often face insurmountable hurdles. The nimby
(not-in-my-back-yard) mentality often is so overwhelming and so
hostile that some have decided it's better to walk away and not
endure the slings and arrows of outraged neighbors. Others have
found it somewhat less so.
In Hattiesburg, Miss., a small town about 60
miles north of the Gulf Coast, the town planning commission in
September approved Southern Scrap Metal Recycling Co.'s plans
to locate a small feeder yard there, but told the company it
would need to put in a fence and landscaping around the yard
and use only designated trucking routes. A month later, the
commission did an about-face and rejected the project.
Southern Scrap, a unit of European Metals
Recycling Ltd. (EMR), the big British scrap recycler, operates
a chain of scrapyards stretching from the Florida panhandle to
New Orleans. It wanted to establish its new feeder yard on a
small six-acre tract in Hattiesburg's busiest commercial zone,
but the town's zoning code makes no specific mention of
recycling drop-off centers. That's another way of describing
what the scrap industry calls feeder yards.
Zoning laws are what lawyers call restrictive
codes. In other words, they allow specified uses of
land-housing in residential areas, shopping malls in commercial
zones-and prohibit all other uses in each zone. Hattiesburg's
full-time planner says that recycling centers like Southern
Scrap's proposal are in a gray area between business and
industrial uses, and the city's position is that any recycling
center must be in an industrial zone.
Joel Dupre, president of Southern Scrap, said
all the company wants to do is open a feeder yard. The scrap
metal gathered there would be toted to its bigger processing
yards in Gulfport, Miss., or New Orleans-no shredder, no balers
and no shears; just a few trucks and some material handling
equipment to load them.
The recycling company could appeal the
planning commission's decision to the Hattiesburg City Council,
but Dupre said he is not thinking about that-or about
abandoning the company's plans to open a feeder yard
there-because town officials have said they are willing to work
with Southern Scrap to find another site that is acceptable to
both the town and the company.
Southern Scrap's experience might be the
exception to the rule, though. Too often, scrap recyclers face
a crowd that may be only slightly less hostile than those who
lined the streets of Paris in Charles Dickens' famous
historical novel and cheered as their own countrymen and women
were led to the guillotine.
Take the example of another scrap metal
company in the Upper Midwest. It wanted to move its feeder yard
to a larger tract of land in Sioux Falls, S.D., bordered by the
local airport, but now is abandoning those plans, according to
local newspaper reports.
TJN Enterprises Inc., a partnership of Shine
Brothers Corp. and Sioux City Compressed Steel Corp.,
apparently has decided that it might be better to walk away
than battle the new neighbors. TJN had an option to buy 32
acres of land near the airport, but that option reportedly has
been dropped and the company has withdrawn an application for a
conditional-use permit at the site.
The scrap company operates yards in Watertown
and Yankton, S.D., as well as in Worthington, Minn., and
Estherville, Spencer and Sioux City, Iowa. Most are what the
company describes on its website as "feeder yards" that gather
material for Shine Brothers' bigger processing yard in Spencer,
a small city about 80 miles northeast of Sioux City, S.D.,
where the company operates a shredder and other processing
TJN wanted to relocate from its five-acre
site in western Sioux Falls. Such plans are part of a concept
called economic growth that normally translates into more jobs
and more tax revenue for a community. But the community-in this
case the neighboring landowners-demanded that the city and
state re-define TJN's proposed facility as a junkyard rather
than a recycling operation. The landowners in the area
apparently didn't think it was a good fit for their locale,
even though most feeder yards don't operate at night and they
don't produce anywhere near the noise level that bigger yards
with shredders and balers can make.
TJN wants to stay in Sioux Falls, a company
spokesman told local reporters, but it needs to expand and it
needs access to better highways and a railroad. It spent months
trying to work through the process of relocating to the airport
site by meeting with local officials, but after the neighbors
hired a lawyer to fight the plan, city officials wilted under
their threats, a TJN source said, forcing the company to
abandon its plans.