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Residents protest ‘junkyard’

Residents of the Saratoga neighborhood turned out en masse Tuesday to protest a proposed recycling center in their community.

About two dozen people came to a Planning Commission meeting to speak at a public hearing regarding the center, which they say would amount to nothing more than a junkyard.

“We do not want a junkyard in our backdoor,” said Doris Lynch, a nearby property owner.

Many of the residents recalled a business that formerly operated on the site at the intersection of South Saratoga and Wellons streets, and was there for many years. They say it brought rodents, snakes, noise and heavy truck traffic to their residential neighborhood.

However, Mark McPherson, who is proposing to operate the center, said his operation would be different, noting that he worked for the previous occupant and knows how the business was run.

“I know what it was,” McPherson said. “I know how the other companies ran it. What I do is just different.”

McPherson hopes to run a center that would accept scrap metals like steel, cast iron, copper, brass and aluminum for recycling. Once the materials came in, they would be sorted and packed into containers, and immediately shipped to larger centers outside the city where they would be reduced to raw materials and transformed into other products.

The business would employ eight to 10 people, McPherson said Tuesday. He anticipates 30 to 40 customers per day.

“We don’t store stuff forever,” McPherson said, promising that materials would be stored no more than 24 hours before they are shipped — the exception being copper, which must be held a certain amount of time to ensure it was not stolen. “When that container is full, it leaves me. I can’t make money if I keep it.”

Despite his insistence that the operation would not be a junkyard, community members were equally convinced it would be.

“A junkyard does not belong in a community where we’re raising our children,” said Linwood Gilchrist, who said he felt bad, as a child, to tell his friends he lived near a junkyard. “We’re trying to raise our children to be productive citizens, not bring them back to what we used to be.”

Many of the residents said they have been working to improve their neighborhood, and planning commissioners agreed.

“They have done quite a good job in there,” commissioner Ronnie Rountree said. “It does look good in the area.”

Rountree and fellow commissioner William Perry suggested tabling the matter for 30 days to give McPherson time to meet with residents. For commissioner William Goodman, however, a month won’t change his mind.

“I feel the people in that community have really endured a hardship,” Goodman said. “You can call it recycling if you want to. It’s a junkyard. I can’t support it.”

Commissioner Ritchie Jordan suggested that McPherson consult with the city’s Economic Development department to find another location that would be more suitable for the recycling operation — a suggestion that was met with cheers and applause from the audience.

The commission voted 6-1 to table the matter for 30 days. Goodman cast the dissenting vote.