It came into council chamber like a wrecking ball.
In July, the California-based company iPull, uPull, approached Strathcona County council requesting for a Land Use Bylaw amendment to allow for site-specific discretionary use for a wrecking yard to be nestled on the corner of 24 Street and 87 Avenue within the Sherwood Industrial Estates. The area is zoned as a medium industrial district, which is homes to a mix of light and medium commercial and industrial companies. A wrecking yard is typically zoned as heavy industrial in the county.
Neighbouring businesses outlined concerns that the property would eventually turn into a junkyard and would become a dumping area for derelict cars, scrap metal and other waste, as well as result in unsightly outdoor storage and increased traffic and possible nighttime crime. To address some of those concerns, the company agreed to not stacking vehicles and parts in their outdoor lot, not demolishing on-site, a two-metre solid fence would be installed, scraps and waste liquids would be disposed of properly, and a traffic brief by an independent consultant was conducted by the company and reviewed by the county.
One of the founders of iPull, uPull, Tom Klauer described his company as the “Home Depot” for do-it-yourself residents looking to fix their own vehicles or restoration hobbyists. He promised the 133,000 square foot facility would offer a professional-looking interior, where the majority of car parts would be located. As for security concerns, the company already utilizes military-grade security technology to keep track of its inventory. On the environmental front, vehicles are processed within the first 24 hours, pulling the batteries, gasoline, oil, mercury switches, antifreeze, freon, and other chemicals, which are sent to certified recycling facilities. The proposed Park location would have been the company’s first in Canada as it’s currently operating out of Stockton, Fresno, and Pomona, all in California. It was posed to employ about 30 people and make an investment of $2 million into the property, inventory, and equipment (not including real estate). Klauer noted this isn’t something he wanted to “bloop in over the weekend” but it was a very serious well-thought-out business model.
“One of the things that we pride ourselves on it that we do things right. This is a retail operation. It is not a junkyard. I realize that junkyard is the classification that we’re working with (with Planning and Development), there is no recycling auto parts (classification),” Klauer told council. “We’re going to make a huge investment here and we want to make sure we get it right… Customers can go in, pull their parts off and come out in a very controlled environment, for the most part.”
The operation would have seen 200 to 250 customers on weekdays, with more interest surging on the weekends. About 200 cars would have been stored outside and if not sold within 45 days, it’s removed.
The item took almost three hours to be presented by the business owner, to be opposed or supported by surrounding companies in the Estates, and for council to debate.
Jack Heart, Quincy Oilfield Productions representative was weary of all the customers it would bring into the area, some of which could be dishonest and come back at night to scope out other neighbouring properties.
“I hope all the councillors would consider their own property and having a rental place that’s not very well taken care of and their own property values and what can happen to them,” he stated.
To that end, Beghofer said hobbyists are not criminals and suggested more customers in the area, means more eyes that could catch crime. When asked by Berghofer about why the company was eyeing Sherwood Park as a location, the iPull, uPull rep said they wanted to be near the Edmonton-area market and the Sherwood Park Estates lot offered a great large building.
Businessman Dawn Loop is in the midst of building a medical cannabis facility adjacent to the property. He opposed the wrecking yard fully; “Let me be blunt. If we knew an auto body wrecking yard was across the street, we would not be there.”
In the end, first reading of the Land Use Bylaw amendment was rejected in a 6-3 vote by council. Support was granted by Katie Berghofer, Brian Botterill, and Bill Tonita.
“When my gut tells me something isn’t right, I need to trust my gut,” noted Anderson after the lengthy debate.
“Bylaws are set for a reason,” added Coun. Linton Delainey.
Coun. Dave Anderson zeroed in on environmental concerns, wondering if the company would be held accountable to a monitoring body or if the council would have to drop in for checks to see if materials are disposed of properly. Coun. Robert Parks noted he didn’t see the value in changing the zoning and did not want to set a precedent with zoning for this wrecking yard, adding it was not appropriate to be located in that area.
Mayor Rod Frank also wasn’t in favour of setting a precedent and didn’t believe the traffic brief compiled the company’s consultant would ease residents’ and businesses concerns.
Botterill hinted he expects to see the file will be tested at a Subdivision Appeal Board hearing.