MONTEBELLO — South Montebello residents this week forced the City Council to shelve a motion that would have allowed its staff to move on changing the zoning code to allow an indoor garbage recycling and sorting station on the south side of town.
Residents attacked the plan for the station, known as a rubbish transfer facility, calling it a glorified dump.
"That's what it is--a dump," said Ray Broguiere, resident and southside activist. "Indoor, outdoor, it doesn't make any difference. A dump is a dump."
Transfer stations are not allowed in Montebello under zoning codes because city leaders in the past were afraid that, although revenue would be earned by the city, the stations would bring noise, odors, rodents and heavy traffic.
After hearing from several residents Monday, the council voted 3 to 1 to delay giving its staff the go-ahead to start the amendment process to the zoning code until after Dennis Katangian of Montebello-based Veteran Disposal meets with South Montebello Area Residents Together, the city's largest community action group.
Councilman Arnold Alvarez-Glasman was absent.
Newly elected Councilman William Molinari voted against continuing the issue, saying, "I don't think we should even open the door."
Amending a zoning code is a long process that entails numerous studies, an environmental impact report and public hearings. Once all the information is in, the City Council must decide whether the code should be amended.
"This is not an endorsement or a request for approval," said City Manager Richard Torres. "What we are hoping is that they (SMART) will listen to a presentation, and that maybe they will see this as something other than a dump."
"Right now everything is up in the air," Councilwoman Kathy Salazar said. "We don't even know what we are talking about."
The recycling and rubbish transfer facility would have four uses, according to a letter sent to the council by Chip Clements, the engineering consultant representing Katangian.
The facility would operate as a recycling station for people selling recyclables; a recycling plant for presorted material collected at curbside; a garbage sorter in which haulers from cities near Montebello would bring residential, commercial and industrial waste to be sorted into recyclable and non-recyclable material, and finally, a transfer station where non-recyclable material is loaded into 18-wheel haulers for disposal at a landfill.
The entire operation would take place in a huge warehouse on Chapin Road, Clements said. All garbage would be cleared every day and extensive landscaping would screen the plant from residents living one-half mile to the north.
It is the sorting and transfer part of the deal that has residents and Molinari upset. Clements estimates that at least 200 trucks a day carrying eight to 10 tons of garbage would pass through portions of south Montebello.
"There has been a strong commitment to reduce the trucking and rubbish industry in south Montebello, yet we are looking at one of the most trucking-intensive industries we can possibly bring in here," Molinari said.
Recycling/rubbish transfer facilities are expected to become more common as a result of a state measure that requires cities to recycle up to 25% of their garbage by 1995 and 50% by the year 2000.
"This is something that is going to have to happen one way or another, and obviously we need some way to do it," said Richard Chase, a consultant to Harbert Triga, a French-American company that is hoping to build a similar facility in Commerce. "It's largely an emotional issue. If it were a food warehouse, there would not be as many complaints about truck traffic, but it's trash and it's garbage."
Chase said an environmental impact report is being prepared in Commerce. If built, the transfer facility there could generate up to $1 million a year for the city of Commerce, Chase said.