WHETSTONE — An appeal that had been submitted to county officials objecting to the county’s approval of a special use authorization for a recycling center in Whetstone has been rescinded by the appellant.
Gary Miller, owner of Quail Ridge RV Resort in Whetstone delivered the appeal to Cochise County planner Robert Kirschmann on July 15. In the appeal application, Miller cited a number of concerns regarding Bolstering Buffalo Inc., a recycling operation located on 202 West Oak St. in Whetstone.
Eric Holeman and his wife Rebecca started operating the recycling operation in Whetstone last March on the Oak Street property which is zoned as general business. A recycling center requires a light industrial zoning in order to be in compliance with county code regulations, the reason for the special use authorization.
The couple’s special use request was approved by members of the Cochise County Planning & Zoning Commission during a public hearing on July 8, despite a petition bearing nearly 100 signatures of objection from residents living in Miller’s RV park as well as some 40 letters of objection.
The appeal was scheduled for Aug. 26, but Miller decided to withdraw it after talking to Eric Holeman.
“I have come to a mutual understanding with Mr. Holeman and no longer oppose the business,” Miller said of his decision.
One of his biggest reasons for rescinding the appeal is because Holeman assured Miller that he planned to move the business to another location in the near future.
“When I first started hearing about this recycling center across the street from my RV park, I was very concerned about its potential for expansion and the negative impacts it would have on Quail Ridge residents,” said Miller, whose 35-acre mobile home and RV park expands from Highway 82 to Oak Street, just 80 feet from the Bolstering Buffalo property line to the south of the park.
“But after speaking to Mr. Holeman face-to-face and discussing some of my concerns, he made it clear that he has no intention of staying at that location long-term. He is there temporarily and is leasing the property where the recycling center is located. He’s already looking for a new location and hopes to move out of there within a few months.”
Miller and others who have voiced objections about the business to county officials expressed concerns about an increase in traffic on Oak Street, the noise level from heavy equipment and odors from the recyclables that are transported to the site.
“The fact that he started a recycling center illegally, on property that was not zoned for that particular use, was troubling to me and a lot of other people in the neighborhood,” Miller said. “There was a lot of opposition to the special use request because people living in the neighborhood had no idea what to expect as the business started growing.”
Whetstone resident Eileen Swiers, who follows special use authorizations and zoning changes in her neighborhood, expressed her disappointment in Miller’s decision to cancel the appeal.
“I’m disappointed the appeal was withdrawn since the neighborhood is residential and folks who live here will not have the opportunity to make their case to the Board of Supervisors through the appeal process,” Swiers said after learning of Miller’s decision.
“Neighbors are not looking forward to a commercial recycling center. In industrial zoned areas, recycling centers are a use by right and residences are not allowed. However, county zoning regulations allow businesses to apply for a special use authorization in areas without the proper zoning when the use is compatible with the current uses in the neighborhood. There is nothing compatible about a recycling center in the middle of residences.”
Lucinda Earven’s property borders the parcel that houses Bolstering Buffalo. It was Earven who filed a complaint with the county on April 1 after she started hearing “ear splitting noise” from glass being dumped into roll-offs. Following the complaint, the county conducted an investigation and Bolstering Buffalo was found in violation of county zoning regulations and advised to apply for the special use authorization.
“Approving a special use permit in a residential neighborhood sets an alarming precedent,” Earven said in a statement at the July 8 commission hearing. “There are a lot of rural areas in this county with the proper zoning where they can set up their business. Please don’t allow this noisy, dirty, unsanitary industrial business in our neighborhood.”
While Miller admits that he shared similar concerns, he feels much better about the operation after discussing those concerns with Holeman.
“He keeps the property clean, there are no noticeable odors coming from the site, all recyclables are stored in a large building, and there is no noticeable increase in the traffic moving up and down Oak Street,” Miller said.
“The Holemans pick all their recyclables up at the curb and customers are required to clean them before they are picked up and transferred to the operation on Oak. So, this is not your typical recycling business.”
In a letter that Eric Holeman sent out to neighbors at the time he was applying for the special use authorization, he outlined some of the steps that were being taken to mitigate negative impacts to neighboring properties.
“When people think of a recycling center, most folks imagine a large, loud and dirty facility, such as the local transfer station or a landfill,” he said through the letter. “However, we will be operating a quiet, clean and small facility.”
Holeman also encouraged neighbors to visit the website at www.bolsteringbuffalo.com for more information about the business and the services it offers.
“I feel I’ve made the right decision by rescinding the appeal,” Miller said. “Once Mr. Holeman assured me of his future plans to relocate the business, I felt much better about the situation. We’ll all be watching to see what happens as time goes on, but I have no reason to doubt his intentions.”