A plan to turn a vacant industrial site on Seneca Street into a recycling center for construction and demolition debris has angered hundreds of neighborhood residents who worry about excessive truck traffic, dirty conditions and other problems.
But the president of the Elma contracting company that is developing the seven-acre site in the 1000 block of Seneca Street, at Peabody Street, said residents are failing to consider the "positives" of the $830,000 project.
Battaglia Demolition & Trucking plans to build a 10,000-square-foot recycling facility that will process wood, cardboard, metal and masonry products from local construction projects. It was recently awarded a $130,300 tax-incentive package from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. Up to 14 trucks a day are expected to visit the facility when it becomes operational next year, according to President Peter J. Battaglia.
Currently, the site can be accessed only via Scathchard Street, a tiny street off Peabody. Residents have been waging an aggressive campaign to keep trucks off Peabody, contending that it is too narrow. Norman Weaver, who has lived on Peabody for 13 years, said there were major disruptions as dump trucks entered and exited the site during the earlier cleanup phase.
"We had to actually run into the living room to catch knicknacks so they wouldn't fall off shelves," Weaver said. "We also have at least 25 or 30 kids who constantly play on Peabody. Now we're going to have these big rigs going up and down our street."
Weaver said more than 320 neighborhood residents have signed a petition in opposition to the truck traffic. Several residents were upset that a development agency staff member told the agency's board last week that "neighbors are very happy" about the project.
"It's not true," said Robert Gogel, president of the Seneca-Babcock Block Club. "Residents might be excited that they're cleaning up this lot, but they're not excited about the thought of heavy trucks traveling up Peabody Street, hauling all this debris."
Dawn Caldarelli, who lives two blocks from the site, said the neighborhood has already been "assaulted" by foul odors and other problems associated with several industrial entities. Caldarelli, who sits on the Seneca-Babcock Environmental Subcommittee, said past problems involving PVS Chemical Solutions, Buffalo Color Corp. and other companies have caused anxiety in the community.
"We have no problem with a recyling facility, but our neighborhood can't handle another assault," she said.
Battaglia said many residents are "misinformed" about his company's plans.
"A lot worse things could happen on that site," he said. "You could see a chemical plant come in there."
Battaglia noted that his company is transforming vacant land into a new business that will employ five people and generate additional tax revenues.
"These are the same people who want better schools and all their potholes filled," Battaglia said. "New businesses generate more money for things like teachers' salaries and road repairs."
A nationally recognized expert on the development of vacant industrial sites known as brownfields said it is not unusual to see disputes of this nature.
"Business interests and community interests often collide, certainly at a project's outset," said Charles Bartsch, director of brownfields-financing studies at the Northeast Midwest Institute, a research group based in Washington, D.C. "It's often possible to work through these differences. How the problems are resolved can be key to a project's success."
Bartsch said planners in some communities have dealt with neighborhood concerns by plotting alternative truck routes and even giving residents input in setting shipment schedules.
Peter K. Cutler, a spokesman for Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, said city officials are trying to work with neighborhood residents. Cutler said a meeting is expected to be held within a week.
"We're sensitive to the concerns of residents, and we're going to try to resolve this in a way that takes into account all factors," Cutler said.
Common Council Member Richard A. Fontana of the Lovejoy District said that he supports the project but that he wants to see an alternative plan for getting trucks on and off the site.
Fontana said one option involves the acquisition of additional property that would permit access on Seneca Street. He said the city Planning Board recently approved Battaglia's site plans.
"I'm not against the project," Fontana said, "but we can't have these huge trucks going up this very narrow street."