BREAKING NEWS / MEDIA REPORTS: City Council denys Exide appeal; votes to set compliance date for non-conforming use
The Frisco City Council demonstrated Tuesday night that it was listening to the diligent and determined voices of citizens when it unanimously voted to deny Exide’s appeal of the Planning & Zoning Commission’s vote to deny the company’s vested rights petition for almost 5o-year-old lead smelter. The Council took another unanimous vote to direct the Board of Adjustment to set a compliance date for non-conforming use for Exide.
Council members also approved the hiring of lawyers to assist the City with zoning and other issues pertaining to the potential amortization of the Exide lead smelter.
Below is a round-up of local media coverage about the Council’s actions:
Dallas Morning News
By VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH
Published: 17 January 2012 11:32 PM
Exide Technologies’ bid to start improvements was blocked again Tuesday as Frisco officials denied an appeal and started proceedings that could eventually mean an end to the battery recycling plant in the city.
The council voted to have the Board of Adjustment hold hearings to consider establishing a deadline for when the plant must be in compliance. The action, which can be initiated only by a majority of the council, is the first step in a legal process to remove undesirable businesses.
That process, called amortization, has been touted by grassroots environmental groups that say the battery recycler is no longer compatible with the fast-growing suburb.
“We do not believe there are any grounds for this and will move forward with the necessary steps to support our position,” company spokeswoman Susan Jaramillo said.
Exide has threatened a lawsuit if the city doesn’t allow the company to move forward with its permits.
When asked about the potential legal costs of Tuesday’s decision, Mayor Maher Maso said: “The city of Frisco’s position is to protect the public health, safety and welfare. It’s not protect the public health, safety and welfare unless it costs too much. … Hopefully they will decide to follow our ordinances and do the right thing.”
City Attorney Richard Abernathy cautioned that Tuesday’s 5-0 vote does not mean an amortization of Exide.
“There are requirements before you can move forward on that,” he told the council.
Exide has been a target in recent years because lead emissions around the plant are too high. Recent state and federal inspections also found contamination on plant property. Soil, water and groundwater tests are being performed to determine the extent of contamination.
The plant is planning $20 million in improvements to reduce its lead emissions. Those improvements are required by the Environmental Protection Agency. Part of the work requires permits from the city.
On Tuesday, Exide officials appealed a December decision by the Planning and Zoning Commission to deny its vested rights petition. The company had petitioned to be allowed to follow city ordinances in place in 1964, when the plant was built. As an alternative, Exide asked that its permits be reviewed under rules in place no later than 1977. Its objective is to get its construction applications approved.
“We simply cannot understand the basis for delaying these improvements,” said Bruce Cole, Exide’s executive vice president of strategy and business development. “We ask that you do the right thing.”
Before a packed chamber, the City Council voted 5-0 to deny the petition, which means the company must follow development standards in place today. Those standards require the company to get a specific use permit, which must be approved by both the planning commission and the City Council.
Also on Tuesday, the council voted to hire the law firm of Hayes, Berry, White and Vanzant to handle legal proceedings regarding the Board of Adjustment. Council members also agreed to retain the law firm of Terry Morgan and Associates to provide legal assistance to the city “in evaluating claims and defenses potentially arising out of the land uses and regulation by the city of the Exide Technologies properties located in the city.”
Under city ordinances, the Board of Adjustment will first have to determine whether Exide’s continued operations “will have an adverse impact on nearby properties.” If such a finding is made, a second public hearing will be held to set a date for compliance. According to the city’s ordinance, the board cannot amortize a use unless it is a nuisance or it “presents a risk of imminent destruction of property or injury to persons.”
Several plant employees spoke to the council, asking that it support the company and preserve jobs. The plant employs about 135 people.
“I ask you to grant these permits to make it safer for everybody,” employee Robert Garcia said.
But others applauded the city for its actions Tuesday.
“This facility has outgrown the city,” said Jim Schermbeck, director of the environmental group Downwinders at Risk. “It is not a good match anymore.”