(ABOVE: Neighbours Susan Schaefer (left) & Joan McCagg. Photo by Jordan Mady.)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Three years ago, the Cash For Trash auto wrecking yard opened on Flewellyn Road, much to the displeasure of nearby homeowners. The operation appears to be in compliance with by-laws and environmental regulations, but a fire on July 8 brought resident concerns to the forefront again.
THE CLOCK HADN’T EVEN STRUCK NOON ON JULY 8 when 73-year-old Joan McCagg saw the thick, dark billowing smoke from her porch.
“When the fire started … I was going to go in town because we needed coffee and needed cigarettes. It was about 11 o’clock and I looked out and saw the smoke. I went out and looked, and called my son. He came out and I said ‘it’s a fire, isn’t it?’ and he said ‘oh yeah, it’s a fire,'” McCagg says.
(Video footage of the July 8 fire, provided by Joan McCagg.)
McCagg says this isn’t the first bad experience she’s had with Cash For Trash, the automobile salvage yard that’s across the street at 7628 Flewellyn Road just east of Munster Road.
She says the business is a major disruption to her neighbourhood, working noisily through the night, improperly disposing of vehicle pollutants, driving vehicles up and down Flewellyn without license plates, and all with no regard for neighbourhood concerns.
McCagg and 19 of her neighbours gathered in her front yard recently to tell StittsvilleCentral.ca about their complaints.
“It’s the noise in the middle of the night, three o’clock in the morning. Hauling cars in with their back-up horns going. They’re hammering, they’re crushing, at three o’clock in the morning. I sleep because my bedroom’s in the back. Don’t hear it. But my older son’s down stairs,” McCagg says.
Mark, her 50-year-old son, sleeps closer to the front of the house where the noise is more prominent. He had three vertebrae impacted in his neck while playing hockey and has been dealing with varying degrees of paralysis ever since. When he lifted his left arm, it shook uncontrollably. He says sleep is already hard enough
His mother says she’s scared living across from the scrapyard. “It’s frightening to live here. It really is. Because their attitude is ‘we don’t care if we burn you out. We don’t care if we wake you up in the middle of the night.”
“Unless you live here, you don’t understand. You don’t see the winds. Wind that can come through and take a branch from a willow tree is strong enough to blow a fire a fire all the way down.”
McCagg would rather not leave the place she’s called home for over a decade, but might not be able to even if she tried.
“Even if I wanted to leave, I can’t get an agent to list it. I’ve spoken to five real estate agents. I told them where I was, what was out here – one of them is my sister. She wouldn’t even list it. My house has no value,” she says.
THE OWNER OF CASH FOR TRASH DENIES EVERY CLAIM made by his neighbours. Charbel Bouroufail says he would buy each and every one of their homes. If they rejected his offer, he would connect them with a realtor who would help them sell.
“They’re trying to find something so they can shut us down in Stittsville,” he says. “They’ve complained since we opened this three years ago.”
Bouroufail says that his business is fully licensed, compliant with all relevant by-laws and he invites those with problems to contact the city’s by-law department.
His company tried to re-zone the back of their property for commercial salvage use two years ago but hasn’t been successful, partially due to neighbours refusing to consent to the zoning change.
Bouroufail thinks moving operations further back on his property would distance them from homes and limit disruption.
“I’ll be happy, they’ll be happy. Life will keep going on,” he says.
His neighbours are also concerned about what will happen to their well water with an automobile salvage yard across the street, but Bouroufail says his business treats all pollutants carefully.
“Every car is being drained properly. If you’re not obeying the rules, they’ll shut you down in a day,” he says.
He wants residents to look at the scenario from his perspective.
“Put yourself in my shoes. You’re trying to run a business. You’re trying to make everything possible. Fifteen to 20 families are living off of our business. We’re trying to recycle, we’re trying to make the Earth greener. Instead of having junk in their houses, they bring it over and it’s being recycled. We’re making new metal out of it. Instead of vehicles being parked on the back of people’s properties and fluids leaking everywhere, we have people going there offering money for their cars. They’re being benefitted. We’re emptying our their cars and we’re recycling them, properly. We’re green. We’re not these bad guys that they’re making us seem like,” he says.
ONTARIO’S WRECKING YARD REGULATORY PRACTICES ARE ANITQUATED, according to Steven Fletcher, managing director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) Association.
“There’s probably a hundred different licenses across the province. Most of them are very old and they really only deal with land use,” he says.
In order to operate an automobile salvage yard, a business must be compliant with municipal by-laws and be licensed by either the Ministry of Transportation or the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council. Fletcher says exactly who regulates what when it comes to salvage yards can often be unclear and leaves room for poor oversight.
“The city thinks the province is doing something, the province thinks the city’s doing something. But in reality, neither of them have a clear legal mandate to do anything,” he says.
Salvage yards are also regulated by the Ontario Fire Protection And Prevention Act and are subject to inspections and fire solutions as laid out in the Act.
ARC, in concert with the provincial government, is attempting to create an environmental, standards-based license that would apply specifically to all automobile salvage companies. This is currently at the proposal stage.
Fletcher says the province’s scrap vehicle industry could benefit from streamlined regulations.
For example, the salvage yard by-laws in some Ontario municipalities have specific rules around items such as fence heights and noise allowance. In Ottawa, noise isn’t addressed specifically in the city’s salvage yard regulations, but falls instead under the more general noise by-law.
MCCAGG AND HER NEIGHBOURS WANT TO SEE CASH FOR TRASH SHUT DOWN. “It’s unfair that the city expects us to live this way. We’re tax payers,” she says.
Scott Moffatt, the councillor for Rideau-Goulbourn Ward where the salvage yard is located, confirmed via email that he’s aware of the concerns.
“Since Cash for Trash opened, my office has repeatedly received concerns about their operations. The main issue is the fact that this type of facility is operating within a residential area. The challenge there, of course, is that the space in which they operate was properly zoned when they acquired the property,” said Moffatt.
He says that Ottawa by-law officers and the Ministry of Environment (MOE) have followed up on resident complaints and performed regular inspections. The MOE usually does annual inspections of scrap yards but has been at Cash for Trash more often than that. Ottawa by-law has issued notices for improper storage of vehicles as well as parking tickets.
As for noise violations, and operations between 11:00pm and 7:00am, Moffatt says so far no violations have been found. But if by-law is able to charge Cash For Trash for these types of violations, the City can withdraw their permit to operate.
“The situation is not ideal,” he said. “I have several scrapyards within the area that I represent and, for the most part, they operate in isolation, hidden from neighbouring properties and removed from the front road.”
Moffatt said that before the fire, Cash For Trash asked to have the rear part of their property re-zoned so that they could move their operations away from the road. But that would require support from neighbours as well.
“We are looking at it again but it isn’t something I would be comfortable with without the support of the neighbouring homeowners,” he said.
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