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Proposed Allentown recycling facility sparks storm of protest in June, peaceful approval in July

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 10 2013 07:08:26 AM CDT
Allentown Planning Commision
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

It took the Allentown Planning Commission less than 15 minutes Tuesday to give preliminary/final plan approval to a proposed “recycling processing facility” that stirred neighborhood outrage when it first came before the commission last month.

And most of that time was spent on a request to postpone installation of sidewalks rather than the plans to build the facility on the 2.57-acre site along North Meadow Street, between Cedar and Washington streets near the north edge of the city.

John Schneider of E. Schneider & Sons, Inc., plans to create the recycling facility by constructing three attached buildings and renovating an existing building along Washington Street.

Not a single resident stood to address the planning commission before the approval. Nor did any planners have questions or concerns about the planned development.

That was in stark contrast to the June 11 meeting, when a large and angry group of city residents went to the planning commission meeting to try to stop what some claimed will be a scrap yard from coming into their neighborhood. They even had a letter from Mayor Ed Pawlowski supporting their position.

Schneider said he will be recycling materials from just a few manufacturers, not from the public. He repeatedly stressed no materials will be stored outdoors on the site. He said his operation will produce no noise or pollution. And he maintained only two tractor-trailers will come in and go out in a month.

At least some residents just didn’t believe him, even though planners assured them the operation is not being approved as a scrap yard and cannot become a scrap yard. One elderly woman walked right up to Schneider during the meeting and told him what he is proposing is “a disgrace.”

Some of the residents’ concerns may have stemmed from the fact that E. Schneider & Sons does operate a scrap yard at 616 Sumner Ave., just west of the N. Seventh Street bridge.

In June, Schneider told planners his proposed N. Meadow Street facility will cut up very valuable types of metals that are too big to go into a furnace to be melted down for reuse. He said they will be cut up at his Meadow Street facility, but not melted there.

In addition to having his plan approved, Schneider requested that he be allowed to postpone installing sidewalks along Meadow and Cedar streets.

Planners were told that section of Cedar Street leads only to an industrial building and an auto salvage yard.

Schneider doesn’t want sidewalk along Meadow Street because he thinks it will increase the potential for theft of material from the property.

“We have extreme concern about that all the time,” he told planners. Although he has said the property will be surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain link fence, with surveillance cameras and security patrols, Schneider is concerned about people cutting through that fence to access the property and steal material. He thinks having a sidewalk along Meadow might encourage them to do so.

The planning commission didn’t buy his argument. It agreed to postpone sidewalk installation on Cedar Street, but not on Meadow.

No sidewalk runs along either side of Meadow between Cedar and Washington streets.

The Washington Street side of the property already has sidewalk but it will be repaired as part of Schneider’s development project.