Plans for a controversial industrial shredder proposed in the City of Howell may need to be altered, following the denial of several requests to be exempt from ordinance provisions.

Padnos Iron and Metal, on Lucy Road in Howell, had sought three variances for their site which already has site plan approval and a special land use permit. Two of the variances requested to keep storage areas and driveways gravel as opposed to needing to be paved, while the third is for the allowance of an industrial shredder to be kept outdoors, and not in an enclosed building. The variance requests came before the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) Thursday night. The BZA could only approve or deny the variance requests as they do not have the authoritative power to reverse the Planning Commission’s decision to grant site plan approval and a special use permit.

The project has been controversial since it was proposed, with residents and a community organization voicing concerns about air and noise pollution that could be created, as well as the potential for groundwater contamination. Numerous residents attended the BZA’s meeting, with most speaking in opposition. After a lengthy public comment period, the BZA voted on each variance request separately and unanimously denied all three.

Chairperson Sean Munsey tells WHMI a lot of his decision had to do with the community outcry against the project and that those that were against it outweighed those that were for it. He says while he may feel differently on the issue, he’s “here to help out the public” adding, “We’re just appointed officials, we’re not elected. But at the same time elected officials are voted in and we’re appointed by the elected people so we’re basically supposed to be speaking for the people.”

Padnos’ first request was that it not be required to pave or curb the “maneuvering areas” around the shredder and its associated conveyer belts. Their second request was that it not be required to pave or curb storage areas where material is stored before and after the shredding process. To support those requests, the applicant stated that necessary heavy equipment would “eviscerate curbing and quickly destroy paving”. Thirdly, Padnos requested that it not be required to enclose the shredding operation in a completely enclosed building because they believe its operations do not trigger the related provision in the City’s Zoning Ordinance.

BZA member Randall Mattson says he does not feel Padnos met their burden of proof to show there was a hardship adding, “The laws are there for a reason and we have to take it very seriously when we decide to allow someone to bypass those laws…I think that their argument was, ‘well, it’s not going to make that much of a difference’, not that there was some aspect of the property that made it impractical for them to do.”

A previous meeting last month was originally scheduled to decide the variance issues, but was delayed after the board received a 100-page packet just hours before by an attorney representing the interests of several groups, including Livingston County Catholic Charities, whose offices are adjacent to the location of the shredder. (DK)