Neighbors share concerns

EAST PALESTINE — A recycling company with 20 years of business in the village heard from a few concerned neighbors during a public hearing Thursday night.

The board of zoning appeals called the hearing before approving a conditional use permit for Jasar Recycling after village officials learned a permit was needed.

Village Manager Pete Monteleone and Councilman Alan Cohen explained that while they were looking through the village’s zoning code they discovered that the business required a conditional use permit for its operations in the heavy industrial district, although no one was aware of that until now.

“No one ever realized this had not been done or that a conditional use permit was even required for the type of business they had,” Cohen said after the meeting.

As a result, Monteleone spoke personally with Jasar President and CEO Ed McNee about filing an application for the permit in order to be in compliance with the code.

McNee agreed, and the board of zoning appeals was presented with the matter on Thursday, as a permit can only be granted by the board.

According to the village’s zoning code, conditional use permits are required in I-2 Heavy Industrial Districts for the junk or salvage of metal, paper, rags, waste or glass for storage, treatment and baling.

Sales representative Jeri Crum and human resources employee Chris Toy attended the meeting to represent the company, alongside two other employees.

Crum and Toy gave an overview of the company’s operations and also took questions and heard complaints from the public.

Most of the complaints were made by Jasar neighbors Patty Doran and Eric Akenhead.

“It is very difficult to live there. The place is a dump. It’s not a recycling center, it is a dump,” Doran said.

She went to say she feels the company doesn’t listen to what the residents have had to say over the years.

“We have no say. The site is an eyesore. They are just loaded with trash and garbage that never goes anywhere,” she said.

Crum and Toy assured them that the company is working to address the issues, and also pointed out that things have moved off the property, including a wood chipper owned by another company and items related to the processing of fracking waste from the oil and gas industry.

Crum said Jasar no longer processes fracking waste and is streamlining its services to focus on recycling of things like plastic water and other bottles, and LDPE film.

She said the company sells the recycled material to end users who then turn it into things like bumper guards and guardrails, plastic pellets and strapping and banding pieces.

The company also has its own extrusion line to make plastic lumber which is then sold to another company that makes export pallets, since wood pallets are not allowed to be exported overseas due to wood insects, they said.

Crum said the plastic lumber also eliminates the logging and timbering of trees.

Toy pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency has not cited the company for any violations and that Jasar has both NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) and Title 5 permits through the EPA.

The permits are required through the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.

Akenhead, however, pointed out that the company was cited for violation a few years ago for the wood chipper that was resulting in excessive dust and wood debris going into the air.

Toy said that yes, the company was cited, but the wood chipper was owned by another company which was not following the proper protocol.

However, Doran argued that whether that company was or wasn’t, Jasar was still responsible due to the equipment being on its property.

Toy agreed, but pointed out that the problem has since been resolved and the equipment moved.

Akenhead said that since the issuance of the Title 5 permit things have gotten better at the company.

“Three years ago I couldn’t mow my grass without chewing dirt. It is a lot better now. As the company grows, all we would like to see is that as things change and progress that you become more proactive and not reactive,” he said.

In the end, Doran and Akenhead said they were happy with the progress being made, but encouraged the company to continue its forward progress.

Toy said he agreed that more was needed and invited everyone to come see the property anytime.

“I don’t live in East Palestine, but I work here and it pays my bills so it is important to me and it is important to Chris, so it is important that we get along,” Crum said.