Recycling business irks nearby residents with noise, dust
When John Hardy first heard a large tractor rumbling in the lot behind his 22nd Street residence in the summer of 2011, he assumed someone in the nearby industrial area was carrying out short-term maintenance.
But the noise became more frequent, until one day he looked over his back fence to see the giant tractor and stacks of bundled recyclables parked just on the opposite side. In May of 2011, the property had been taken over by Basik Recycling and, as the business grew, so did Hardy’s and other neighbors’ annoyance with the resulting sound, vibration and dust.
Hardy took his concerns to the city Planning Department, where he said he was initially met with indifference: “A woman there basically told me it’s an industrial area, and there’s nothing that could be done about it.”
This prompted Hardy’s own investigation, and he found the area is actually zoned “ML,” or “light manufacturing,” which, according to Chico Municipal Code, allows “light assembly and manufacturing, wholesaling, warehousing and distribution, agricultural processing and industrial processing within structures, and support commercial services.”
Hardy and other citizens continued to complain to the city, pointing out that the recycling business had never obtained a proper use permit for the operation.
Last May, neighbors expressed their concerns at a meeting attended by Basik Recycling owner Dylan McFann, representatives of the Barber Neighborhood Association and city officials. In June, another unhappy neighbor, Guy Hathorn, submitted an objection to the recycler’s application for a use permit signed by 30 nearby residents.
Hardy has been relentless in his campaign against Basik Recycling, but said his main frustrations haven’t been with McFann, but with lack of city follow-through.
“The community meeting only happened because we demanded it,” he said. “I had to go to the city and explain that it was our right to have some input. We had every right to know the business was coming before it even started, and once they figured that out, they never made an attempt to get things caught up.”
Hardy said the situation troubles him so much he’s considering using savings planned for improvements to his current home to move elsewhere.
Greg Redeker, an associate planner with the city of Chico, explained the city is addressing the issue through due process and expects a conclusion in the coming months. He also said the controversy goes back to an oversight when Basik first opened.
“It appears that some sort of a miscommunication occurred,” Redeker said, “either with the applicant not being clear on what was being done or us not being clear in understanding what was being done, so he opened up thinking he was good to go.”
Redeker supplied an Aug. 9, 2013, email from a city principal planner, Brendan Vieg, to the City Council explaining that, based on verbal communications with McFann, the facility fell under the category of “Recycling—large facility” and would not need a use permit. After hearing community concerns, the city Planning Department prompted McFann to submit a zoning-verification letter, which revealed Basik’s outdoor operations actually upgraded it to the same category as scrap and dismantling yards, meaning a use permit is required.
McFann submitted the application shortly thereafter, and Redeker said the city is planning to conduct necessary environmental testing (specifically a “mitigated negative declaration”) shortly; then, the Planning Commission will vote whether or not to approve the permit. The business or concerned neighbors can appeal that decision, which would leave Basik’s future in the hands of the City Council.
Redeker further explained that Basik has been allowed to stay open based on city policy.
“If a business finds out they need a use permit after they’ve made a significant investment in terms of time and money,” he said, “and there is no significant life or health safety issue, we allow them to continue to operate while they pursue the permit.”
McFann said he’d never expected, or wanted, to be at odds with the community, noting he’s spent substantial amounts of money and effort to mitigate negative impacts reported by neighbors, including grading the land and buying water trucks to cut down on dust, investing in quieter equipment and reducing hours of operation. He also noted most of his operations are done indoors, and he’s moved outdoor operations more than 400 feet from Hardy or any other neighbors’ back fences.
“I grew up in Red Bluff, graduated from college here at Chico State, then moved away to the big city and realized I didn’t like it there,” McFann said. “I came back here because I love Chico, and I wanted to become an entrepreneur and help the community.”