City revisits bid for ‘upcycle’ site
by Rachel Gray
March 13, 2014 04:00 AM | 2479 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — New faces on the City Council and a change of heart by an influential businessman reversed a zoning decision from six months ago, allowing a green technology business to “upcycle” in Marietta.

In August, City Council unanimously denied a rezoning request that would have allowed the transformation of a vacant building into a computer recycling center.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Manager, Rusty Roth, said applicants are allowed to return after six months if their bid is denied.

This time, there were three new council members, Stuart Fleming, Johnny Walker and Michelle Cooper Kelly, who took their positions in January and heard the case for the first time.

On Wednesday night, City Council did a complete reversal, approving the request 7-0 with little discussion.

The property, off Industrial Park Drive near Interstate 75, has been sitting vacant for two years.

Toronto-based Electronics Recycling Services International applied for a special land-use permit for the 1.5-acre site, which would recycle plastics, glass and silicon.

Roth said the property 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 International 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.

The last time the zoning case was heard by City Council, 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.

Representatives from ERS International blamed the rejection of the first rezoning request six months ago on the influence of a well-known Marietta businessman.

Across from the rezoned property is E. Smith Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., which has been owned since 1963 by former county chairman Earl Smith, the namesake of the Earl Smith Strand Theatre on the Square.

Starting last June, Smith spoke to the Planning Commission and the City Council twice about his concerns with the proposed recycling business opening across the street, voicing doubts ERS could operate without polluting the air and groundwater.

At that time, Smith said the electronic recycling process leaves a lot of exposure for that neighborhood if something goes wrong.

On Wednesday, Mayor Steve Tumlin said Smith was now confident in the project after talking with the owner of the property over the last six months.

Councilmen Andy Morris, Johnny Walker and Anthony Coleman, who represents the area where the recycling center will be built, each said Smith had sent them messages about his approval as well.

The hours of operation for the new business will be limited from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

No outside storage is allowed, except for two enclosed silos outside the main structure, and no dust or residue can escape into the air.

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