A tire recycling plant that had two major fires in less than five months was approved for an expanded tractor-trailer parking area Monday over the objections of nearby residents.
The city Planning Board gave the green light to the plans at Liberty Tire Recycling, 490 Ohio St., but added conditions to try to improve the quality of life for residents on South New York Street, which borders the property.
The tire plant is within the border of an I-3 zone, which permits heavy industry.
"Our intention here is to make it more palatable to you," board member David C. Chamberlain told the residents.
One of them, Kim Callahan, said there weren't any serious problems until plant owner Derek Martin removed about an acre of trees on his property about two years ago.
"We have all kinds of problems with black dust," said Kirk Rutherford, another resident.
Martin asserted that rubber dust from ground-up tires is not a health hazard.
"It's used on playgrounds," he told the Planning Board. "They're just inflammatory-type statements."
Chamberlain told Martin, "We've got to give you some leeway because it's an I-3. But it's not a chocolate factory."
Martin and Rutherford's wife, Janeen Totten, disagreed over whether Martin had promised to plant trees.
The Planning Board required Martin to plant two rows of arborvitae, 4 to 6 feet high, along a 15-foot-wide flat area along the property line. A slope down to the parking lot must be planted with ground cover to prevent erosion.
Rutherford added, "I have concerns about the fire hazard. What is he going to park there? Is he going to park tractor-trailers loaded with tires?"
Rutherford asserted that state environmental regulations prohibit placing tires within 50 feet of his home.
Martin said, "There won't be tires in the trailers anyway, so it's a moot point."
An enormous tire fire Jan. 27-28, blamed on a live electrical wire falling onto a pile of tires, came in the wake of a Sept. 7 fire inside one of the plant's buildings, which was reported to have caused millions of dollars in damage.
"New York Street, that we live on, has no fire hydrants," Rutherford said. "We're fortunate that during the [Jan. 27-28] fire, the wind was blowing the other way."
Also Monday, the Planning Board gave the 21st Amendment, a bar at Main and Locust streets, permission to use a section of sidewalk for outdoor dining between April 15 and Oct. 15. The patio will be 18 feet long and 6 feet wide, leaving 6 1/2 feet of room for pedestrians to walk past, bar owner Jonathan George said.
Jessica Dittly was allowed to pour a concrete patio at East Avenue and McCollum Street, outside her new ice cream parlor slated to open around July 4.