As the city of Portland finally gets a scrap metal yard to move out of one of its downtown neighborhoods, Westbrook residents are finding themselves with a new neighbor.

The scrap metal yard, owned by Schnitzer Steel, of Portland, Ore., was approved by the Portland Planning Board on July 8 to move from Somerset Street to Riverside Street, right by the Westbrook border. A few Westbrook residents attended that meeting, and will have the opportunity to voice their concerns again, as the City Council Committee of the Whole addresses the issue at a meeting Monday.

According to City Council President Brendan Rielly, the meeting, which was postponed from last Monday, is largely being held to make sure councilors and residents are up to date on the project’s progress and that the Department of Environmental Protection, which still has to issue a permit for the scrap metal yard, is aware of any concerns residents might have.

“We don’t have direct control,” Rielly said.

But still, he said, the city would like to avoid a situation similar to what happened when a recycling center was built in 2004 near the Westbrook border in Gorham, and residents weren’t aware of its impact on them until trash was blowing onto their lawns.

Bob Morrill, who lives on Conant Street near Plan-it Recycling, which is located on Gorham Industrial Parkway off Route 25, is one of those residents. Though Morrill said he knew a recycling facility was going to be built, he had no idea what the impact would be.

“We’ve had to move cookouts from outside into our home,” he said about the smell of Plan-it Recycling. “The impact is more than anybody ever anticipated.”

Morrill said he thought the Gorham Planning Board should have reached out to him and his neighbors more during the process. He has subsequently had conversations with the board since the recycling center was built. He said its members are understanding of the impact, but there’s nothing they can do about it now.

Pat Conley, a resident of Constitution Drive in Westbrook who attended the Planning Board meeting in Portland, said she thinks it’s too late for the city to do anything about the situation, too.

“I think the thing is already a done deal,” said Conley, whose concerns include the sight and sound of the scrap metal yard, but mostly, she said, she is concerned about the impact it might have on the nearby Presumpscot River, if metal gets into the groundwater.

Dave Murphy, senior manager for Schnitzer, said the scrap yard is compliant with all regulations from both the Planning Board and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Mayor Bruce Chuluda sent letters to the Portland Planning Board and the Department of Environmental Protection last month to make sure they were aware of the potential impact the project could have on Westbrook residents and asked that they take them into consideration.

According to Alex Jaegerman, director of Portland’s planning department, Westbrook residents were notified of the Portland Planning Board meeting, and Westbrook City Administrator Jerre Bryant said they were also invited to public hearings held by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Jaegerman said that the Portland Planning Board asked several questions about the landscaping of the project in order make sure that trees planted would be tall enough to block the site of the scrap metal yard, and Conley agreed.

“They did listen,” she said, but is concerned that when the trees lose their leaves, it will be visible to her and her neighbors.

Murphy said the company is doing what it can to keep the impact to a minimum.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” he said.

The scrap metal yard, where metal comes from places like industrial manufacturers and auto salvage facilities to get processed into pieces that will be melted and reused, is planned to take up 13 acres out of 53 purchased by the city of Portland for the purpose of moving two scrap metal yards out of Portland’s Bayside neighborhood and relocating the city’s public works building. Jaegerman said that the other scrap metal yard, owned by E. Perry Iron & Metal, has not yet agreed to move to Riverside Street and the city doesn’t have the money to build the new public works building yet.

Still, he said, moving one scrap metal yard is part of the significant progress the city has made since it formulated a new vision for redeveloping Bayside in 2000 to be more commericial than industrial.

But, according to Conley, the move to improve one Portland neighborhood will adversely affect an important area of Westbrook.

“I wonder why the city of Westbrook isn’t more alarmed,” she said. “They’re dropping this at our front door.”

However, Murphy said, there aren’t many other options in Portland, and that’s where the company wants to be.

“Everybody wants recycling,” he said. “You’ve got to have a place for it.”

The Committee of the Whole meeting Monday begins at 7 p.m., in room 114 at Westbrook High School.

Toeing the line


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