A small Chattanooga metal recycling business met stiff opposition to its plan to move into the Alton Park neighborhood at a regional planning meeting Monday - and the strongest opponent was a similar business with plans to open a $5 million facility down the street.
LKQ Corp., a nationwide company that distributes aftermarket and recycled auto parts, is planning to open two new divisions in the 400 block of Workman Road, representative Bruce Barber told city planners at Monday's meeting.
He urged city planners not to approve a special industrial permit that would allow Kan Metal Recycling to open a scrap metal yard about a mile away on Hooker Road.
Kan Metal Recycling owners are asking to open a 4-acre scrap metal yard on a 44-acre lot just north of the Georgia border. The area is recommended for heavy industrial use and is already zoned for manufacturing. Kan Metal needs the special permit in order to process the metal outside, instead of inside a building.
"I think it's a good location for the use, relative to other locations," said Joseph Park of the engineering firm of March Adams & Associates, which is representing Kan Metal.
But Barber said that LKQ is making a significant investment -- $1 million in equipment alone -- to ensure that the company's operations are environmentally responsible, and he thinks Kan Metal Recycling's plan shouldn't be approved unless the much smaller company can meet the same standard.
"Their environmental plan is very sketchy," he said. "We're not opposed to any business in the area, but we don't want to be the only guys in the neighborhood cleaning up."
Parks said that his clients at Kan Metal Recycling, which plans to to hire about seven people, would work to meet the city's standards.
"[The owner] grew up in this industry and is just trying to keep his business afloat," Parks told city planners. "He doesn't have the capital to invest millions of dollars."
LKQ will probably break ground within a month and is planning to hire between 30 and 40 local people, Barber said. The two companies are different, he said, because Kan Metal is in the scrap business, while LKQ recycles old cars for parts.
LKQ has worked extensively with the Chattanooga City Council, he added.
"We were brought in under the assumption that the city's desire was to clean up that area, increase the standards, beautify it and make the neighborhood proud," Barber said. "To allow any business to come in without specific requirements is quite frankly a disappointment to our company and the amount of capital we're going to spend in this neighborhood."
Last June, Chattanooga's interim general services director Danny Thornton was criticized when he sent a letter on behalf of the city of Chattanooga to the Nashville Metro Planning Commission to endorse a LKQ Corp. project in Nashville. Thornton said at the time that the company, which processes about 700,000 cars a year, worked well with Chattanooga's government. But Thornton didn't consult other city officials before sending the letter.
The planning commission voted not to make a decision on the special permit for Kan Metal Recycling until the next planning meeting in June. Park said he'll meet with the Kan Metal owners to decided whether to move forward by drafting a more detailed site plan, or to walk away from the project.