I don’t know very much about the other issues but I have been following the Norcini Salvage Yard in Coatesville. The property is very clearly zoned Industrial 1 or Light Industrial. An auto service business is Light Industrial. A salvage yard or junk yard is very clearly Industrial 2 or Heavy Industry. Although it was represented as a kind of auto service business, I think the Norcini’s business plan was to put a junkyard on Elm Street. I don’t think they would have tried this in a white neighborhood.
I condensed Ms. Flamer’s remarks to her references to the Norcini Salvage Yard. Her entire talk is in the recording.
Ms. Flamer, “I’ve been attending City Council since 1925, right after I got out of high school…I want to know why the junkyard was put there… when so many of us citizens objected to it… I think a lot of people are coming here to Coatesville to take advantage of this special permit. You can do anything in the Fifth Ward; it seems to be where it is… Now why did the junkyard come there with this special, why all this special, whatever you do; no need to complain because it doesn’t make no difference. I’ve been up there many times and you’re not heard. It’s all done by that gentleman; I don’t know who he is. But it’s all done by him the planning don’t have nothing to say and it’s all decided before you get there. Do you have any answer to me why this has to be in the Fifth Ward? Is there any remedies for any of these things that I’m asking?
Coatesville City Manager Ted Reed, "As far as what you termed the junkyard. The gentleman, Mr. Norcini, as I understand it, applied for a special permit before the Zoning Hearing Board to put his business there and the Zoning Hearing Board approved to allow him to put his business there. The City Council reviewed a number of the complaints and concerns from the community in that area and they decided to appeal the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board. So the City Council took the appeals to court and I believe that was on September 17th, whenever that hearing was. That would have been in West Chester before the Common Pleas Court, Judge Nagle. I believe that Mr. Carnes argued that and perhaps he could respond."
"Ms. Flamer, What happened was a special exception was granted by the Zoning Hearing Board and it was the Cities position that Mr. Norcini initially applied for auto towing license and auto repair. And then the application slightly changed and the word ‘salvage’ was added.
We argued that was a mistake was a mistake that it was excessive and that the prompt action that was taken because of the sequence of events indicated that the property was only purchased about May 21st of that year. Although there were inquires made in March. And the inquires seemed to focus on a towing business. But he actually did apply for a change of permit that added the word ‘salvage’. Now one of the things that is well known is in the towing business there’s often a salvage component. Not a salvage yard but a salvage component. Because if a tower goes out with a wrecker and picks up a car and nobody comes to pay for it they actually can get title to it and sell it. So they get a salvage license from the state.
What happened here is they expanded the scope of that and turned it, in the cities opinion, into basically a junkyard or a recycling center. At that point on August 26th Mr. Molina sent a stop work order a cease and desist notice and they appealed that. They had only acquired the property on May 21st on August 26th they were told to stop.
They said that they spent money, but it was our argument that they spent that money for the towing business which would probably be an acceptable business in that neighborhood in that it would be an upgraded building and there would just be a tow truck not the scrap metal recycling. There own attorney stated that the City had made a mistake and I argued to the judge that the mistake was very serious because we had a totally different kind of use and in an area was surrounded by residential uses, not only on Elm Street but also on the other side, I believe is Coates Street. And I also questioned them as to what kind of activity was taking place and they admitted that out in the open they were basically tearing these cars apart and taking parts off them. They said that they would try to limit it to automobiles but that’s not what is permitted. And it’s clearly not permitted under the zoning.
The Zoning Hearing Board unfortunately bought their argument that they spent a lot of money and they were entitled to go forward at that point in time. But I argued that the Cities position was if you look at the expenditures that they made, which had totaled approximately $120,000, most of that money would have been spent just to fix up the building, clean up the area. They spent $27,000 in the beginning just going out there with their excavation and cleaning things up. But they weren’t entitled to have that kind of a use in that area.
The argument was that a mistake was made. That was then based in part on Mr. Norcini because he tried to slip it in. That he rushed to spend the money and that he did not properly look into it. He indicated that he was a highly sophisticated businessman. He had done these types of deals with his father who is a businessman. They never consulted with their attorney to review the Zoning Ordinance. And their initial representation to the City was as far as I can tell, I wasn’t the attorney at the time, but there was a towing operation and it sort of morphed into becoming what ultimately was identified as a junkyard.
So that is the question that is before the judge. We feel confident that we presented the best argument that we can. Unfortunately Ms. Flamer these zoning hearing boards, as members of this audience know only too well, they are the fact finders and the judges are not willing to overrule them unless they find a clear error or fault or it’s unsupported by substantial evidence. And as long as the Zoning Hearing Board can identify some evidence even if it’s not very good at it and that’s to say that they believed it, it’s a little difficult to overrule.
We argued that it was a clear misstatement of fact and the statement was wrong here and it’s in Judge Nagle’s hands."
Ms. Flamer, “Is this a health hazard to boot?”
Mr. Carnes, “Yes, it’s a health safety and welfare concern and I believe that there was testimony presented by a variety of your neighbors, maybe yourself included. The situation is what it is. The Zoning Hearing Board ruled and we raised as many possible challenges as we could and we tried to bring this to the attention of the court system."
Ms. Flamer, “Well when you get this decision, in other words is the Zoning Hearing…"
Mr. Carnes, “Well, we’re optimistic, cautiously optimistic that the judge will reverse the matter or remand it. If they remand it they would send it back to the Zoning Hearing Board and give the City a second opportunity to put all this to Mr. Molina. Mr. Molina was present at the proceedings but was never called by the solicitor to testify. He actually participated in asking some questions. But it’s sort of water over the dam; I think you understand. We hope that the judge will grant our request."
Mr. Reed, “Is there a chance for an appeal from this decision if in case it’s not favorable to the City, City Council would have the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to appeal that decision, I believe next would be the Commonwealth Court?"
Mr. Carnes, “That’s right, we have the Commonwealth Court but our hope is that our presentation and our argument will be well received by the judge and that he will reverse the Zoning Hearing Board or remand it."
What I said last night was:
“I didn't even know what Ms. Flamer was going to talk about but I can add this one thing to it. I’m not saying that there is anything illegal going on at the junkyard or that anything illegal ever did. Or that whether it is necessarily illegal to belong to a motorcycle gang. But allegedly up until March of 2008 (it was actually 2009) Daniel and David were members of the Road Runner Motorcycle gang. It’s either Road Runner or Road Runners, which is a sub-group of the Pagans… Instead of that just being whispered I wanted to get that in the record.
I want to say something about the Velodrome. It appears as though the Velodrome is going be here in Coatesville or Caln. And I think for the kids in school, it really doesn’t matter much since the School District is in both areas. And, well, if you’ve ever seen the bike races it’s kind of like a track meet on wheels. And I was just thinking, maybe someday a decade or so from now we could have a, someone from Coatesville High School could be a cycling champion and maybe an Olympic cycling champion.”
Ms. Marie Hess asked if some of the materials that are sent out by the city could be printed in English and Spanish.
Ms. Hess, “A lot of people that have a lot of violations and things leave trash out on Tuesday when their trash isn’t out until Friday. A lot of people don’t speak English and can’t read our City Information Packet and things like that. Our population is growing of people who speak Spanish here in the City, so we could start looking at trying to get things translated into English and Spanish… Some of our violations might drop just from education.”
The meeting ended with Council Comments. Mr. Eggleston seemed confident that the concerns of the people in Coatesville’s Fifth Ward would be sufficiently addressed. Mr. Simpson said that it is always a pleasure to have Ms. Flamer here.
I believe that Daniel and David Norcini would not have done this in a white area or a higher income level area. I tend to feel that it is not just a zoning issue but also a kind of civil rights issue, an Environmental Justice issue. So just in case this route is not satisfactory:
Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice