A large and angry group of residents went to the Allentown Planning Commission Tuesday afternoon to try to stop what some claimed will be a scrap yard from coming into their neighborhood.
If they expected the planning commission to kill the planned recycling processing facility, they were disappointed. Even a letter from Mayor Ed Pawlowski supporting their position did not help.
The property they are concerned about is 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 facility on the 2.57-acre site by constructing three attached buildings totaling 10,040 square feet and renovating an existing building fronting Washington Street.
He 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.
And he said his operation will produce no noise or pollution.
Materials will be delivered and taken away by “18-wheelers,” but he added: “The volume of material is extremely low.” He said only two tractor-trailers will come in and go out in a month.
Initially the site will only have two employees, but Schneider indicated that could change depending on future business activity. He intends to operate 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
Some residents at the meeting simply didn’t believe Schneider.
“The proposal is to put a scrap yard directly in the middle of a neighborhood,” said neighbor Ron Semanick. “This will destroy the neighborhood, the quality of life and the value of homes. Who would ever want to live near a scrap yard?”
City planning officials tried to assure residents the operation is not being approved as a scrap yard and cannot become a scrap yard.
E Schneider & Sons operates a scrap yard at 616 Sumner Ave., just west of the N. Seventh Street bridge. “I’m sure some people are concerned that this site is going to be what he has on Sumner Avenue, but it’s totally different,” said Adam Smith of Barry Isett & Associates, Schneider’s engineer for the project.
“There is a large crowd in here today, one of the largest we’ve seen in awhile,” said planning commission vice chairman Anthony Toth at the start of the meeting in City Hall. “We ask that you be courteous and respectful of us and we’ll work through this together.”
The audience became rebellious when planner Martin Velazquez asked Schneider if adjacent businesses have truck traffic using Meadow, Washington and Cedar streets.
When Schneider said yes, many in the audience loudly responded “no!”
Toth, who ran the meeting, implored people to “keep it civil,” telling them they would have a chance to speak and offer rebuttal.
Hilda Gammer, who said she's lived on North Meadow Street for 74 years, walked right up to the table where Schneider and his engineer were seated and told them what Schneider is proposing is “a disgrace.” She asked Schneider if he would like to live across from what he is proposing.
He did not answer.
“You think people in our neighborhood are deserving of this? It’s very rude of you.”
Gammer was applauded. When she told Schneider if he owns the property, he should do something more valuable for the whole neighborhood, she was applauded again.
Toth asked resident to keep their emotions and applause to a minimum.
Said another woman: “Most of the people here are neighbors and we do not want this in our very residential neighborhood. We want to keep our neighborhood quiet.”
Toth repeatedly told residents Schneider has the right to use the property as he plans, according to the city’s zoning ordinance and its zoning officer.