Candidates face off over recycling dispute

By Steve Wehrly, Journal reporter

What’s the problem?

That’s what Frank Penwell wants to know.

Penwell has operated various businesses at the same location on Roche Harbor Road since he bought the property in 1978. He says, “I’ve obtained every permit anybody said I had to have” during that time.

He presently operates Consignment Treasures as a 501(c)(3) recycling and reuse charity on the property, under a conditional use permit obtained in 2008. “I set up Consignment Treasures as an expansion of the Lion’s Club ‘Reach Out and Recycle’ program, and to use the proceeds for charitable purposes,” Penwell said.

One of the conditions of the 2008 permit states: “A recycling drop off point is not allowed unless later authorized by changes to current county code requirements.”

Penwell didn’t think much of that condition because he thought the “changes” would be passed and implemented that same year, allowing him to continue to accept recycling.

When Unified Development Code amendments were proposed, Penwell thought the County Council would straighten out the “drop-off” problem. The council recently passed the development code amendments, with changes to provisions involving recycling centers and recycling collection points.

But Penwell believes these changes actually work against a solution for Consignment Treasures. He insists that the amendments will make continued operation impossible by designating drop-off recycling as a “non-conforming use”, unable to be remedied by another conditional use permit.

Adding further intrigue, because of other problems with the new development code, Councilman Howie Rosenfeld made a “motion to reconsider” the recently passed ordinance, opening up the entire law to further amendment. Rosenfeld has not indicated whether he regrets his motion to reconsider, although finding four council votes in favor of opening up this process seems unlikely.

Additionally, Penwell claims that the wetlands critical areas ordinance now being considered by the county council will subject the property, which has two ponds, to possible criminal sanctions.

The two people Penwell holds responsible for this turn of events are Rosenfeld and Councilwoman Lovel Pratt, both of whom deny that the council action will have the effect Penwell alleges. Personal meetings, e-mails and letter-to-the-editor exchanges leave Penwell unconvinced and unhappy.

Supporters of Penwell have taken the issue to the public, setting up a “Save Consignment Treasures” Facebook website, and bringing Lovel Pratt’s election opponent, Bob Jarman, into the fight.

Local Republican Minnie Knych has announced that Jarman and Councilman Rich Peterson will hold a town hall meeting at the Mullis Center this Wednesday evening “to discuss the current controversy and come up with a solution that fits our community.”

Pratt has said she intends to be there to offer her side of the argument. Rosenfeld hasn’t decided what he’ll do, but his November election opponent, Marc Forlenza, says he “will be on the dais” at the Mullis Center.

If there wasn’t a problem before, the addition of politics means there is a problem now.


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