Toronto-based Electronics Recycling Services blames the rejection of the rezoning on the influence of a well-known Marietta businessman.
Last week, the council shot down plans for a recycling center at 925 Industrial Park Drive, between Cobb Parkway and I-75 on the north side of Marietta.
ERS International applied for a special land-use permit for a 1.5-acre site across from property owned since 1963 by former county chairman Earl Smith, the namesake of the Earl Smith Strand Theatre on the Square.
Smith began expressing his opposition at a Planning Commission meeting June 4, voicing doubts that ERS could operate without polluting the air and groundwater.
At the Aug. 14 council meeting, Smith presented a December 2011 notice of complaint from the U.S. Environment Protection Agency on leaking batteries at an ERS center in Norcross.
Council members said there was no evidence of a citation or fine following the complaint. But with the credibility of the company questioned, Councilman Grif Chalfant balked at the request.
“That (electronic recycling) process was leaving a lot of exposure for that neighborhood that something could go wrong,” Chalfant said.
The area is a mix of commercial and industrial businesses, like Smith’s company, E. Smith Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.
Smith said there was no investigation by the city staff on ERS International or the possible ramifications to the environment. Smith said he seemed to be the only one voicing concerns.
“I am not the mayor of Industrial Park,” Smith said.
Smith said any business has a right to use property as the law allows.
“I am not antigrowth,” he said.
But Smith said ERS International’s promise to comply with safety measures and stipulations imposed by the city was not convincing evidence to support the recycling business.
Rusty Roth, the city’s planning and zoning manager, said 925 Industrial Park Drive is zoned as heavy industrial, but a change in the city’s ordinance in 2008 requires a special use permit for a company wanting to recycle computers and other electronics.
There are already three private scrap metal centers in Marietta. But there are no centers in the city that deal with electronics, Roth said.
ERS planned to “upcycle” leaded glass from computer monitors into a polymer mixed with cement that would be used to make fixtures, such as parking lot bumpers and large planters.
Jeffery Mendez, of ERS International, said the company is a certified recycler of hazardous material that would pulverize leaded glass and place the particles in a stable compound, instead of allowing the toxic computer equipment to be dumped in landfills.
Councilman Jim King said safe e-waste disposal is something the country and world needs, but when issues with ERS were raised last week, there were no technical representatives from the company present to answer questions.
“When I am faced with a yes or no vote, I am going to go with the safe vote to protect our citizens,” King said.
ERS has owned the property for years and already purchased $100,000 worth of equipment, according to its spokesman, Ray Beaty.
Beaty said the company might fight the decision in court.
Mendez said there is not a clear reason for the denial, and executives are furious with what they call a “biased decision” favoring Smith.
He said ERS International has been operating centers around the world, and a green facility would put Marietta on the map.
Mendez said he is not sure what ERS International will pursue, but the company could choose to sell the land and move the operation to another city. That means Marietta would lose out on at least future 50 jobs, he added.
The property has been sitting vacant for two years, and ERS International can reapply for the permit in six months, starting over with a hearing by the Planning Commission.