H-SANTA MARIA

Feb 16, 2012 2:48 AM by Ariel Wesler

Hearing on proposed recyling center postponed as crowd gathers

150 people showed up with a lot to say, but they didn't get the chance. No public comment and no decision over whether a proposed recycling plant should be allowed in Santa Maria.

Opponents say it will create more traffic for an already dangerous intersection at Fesler and Depot. That's the main reason Wednesday night's hearing was postponed, so the company can conduct a traffic study.

Crowds poured out into the hallways at Santa Maria city hall. Around 150 people showed up to voice their frustration, but they weren't given the chance.

"We feel very disappointed and honestly offended," said Hazel Putney with the organization PUEBLO, which advocates for the Hispanic community. "The room was full and the least the planning commission could have done was open it up to public comment."

Groups from PUEBLO and "Friends of Fesler" gathered to stop SA Recycling from moving into town.

"It's a great feeling knowing we have the Latino community stepping up and giving their opinion," said George Alvarez of Santa Maria.

He wants SA Recycling to do all its homework, including a full environmental impact report before the planning commission makes a decision.

"Have all the things there from contaminants, public safety, environmental issues from the EPA and air quality," Alvarez said.

But SA Recycling says the facility won't bring more than another four to five cars per hour and only one semi truck trip per day. The company plans to build a 10 foot block wall and says the noise levels meets city standards of 65 decibels, about as loud as a busy restaurant.

"Why in a dense Latino community do they want this? I would bet my bottom dollar if this was a project set for Foxenwoods, Lake Murray or College Park, it'd be a different story," Alvarez said.

Opponents feel the meeting was moved to March as a distraction, but they say this is not an issue they plan to toss aside.

"This isn't something we're going to forget about," Putney said.

SA Recycling is the largest recycling company on the west coast. The project director wouldn't go on camera, but says he is very surprised by the turnout and has never seen opposition like this in other cities.

At this point, the company is only doing a traffic study. They are not required to do an environmental impact report because the planning commission says the type of business is similar enough to the auto wrecking yard it would be replacing. Still, opponents argue while it may be a similar business, it has different impacts on the community.

The facility would recycle anything metal as well as aluminum cans and household appliances.

The next hearing will take place March 21 at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

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