Overflow crowd forces cancellation of Clayton meeting

Posted: February 28, 2014

A Wednesday night meeting in Clayton's Borough Hall that became contentious even before its starting time drew a crowd so large that borough officials ultimately canceled the session, citing a fire hazard.

Nearly 90 residents packed the courtroom for the zoning and planning board's 7:30 p.m. meeting, at which a proposed recycling facility was to be discussed. It was unclear when the meeting would be rescheduled.

The plant, to be dubbed East Coast Material Recycling Facility, has been presented for an area off the 300 block of Cenco Boulevard.

The project became the subject of discussion among area residents in recent days, with many fearing truck traffic, increased noise, and pollution.

"A little bit of everything," said Frank Morrow, 58, who lives on Groff Street in the Villages at Aberdeen. Several residents in the 55-and-older community said they had moved in recently, unaware of the facility's application.

"We're all 55 and older," Morrow said. "It just seems like it was dumped on us."

Board officials canceled the meeting after asking some residents to leave, to reduce the crowd to the 77-person capacity. Some shouted for the meeting to be taken to a larger venue, or for the board to find a way to accommodate the crowd.

The application was filed in December by Bonnie and John Nikituk of Deptford. Bonnie Nikituk said the couple was in the business of trash containers, but declined to specify.

"I think they have some misconceptions that it's a waste facility," she said of the residents. The application calls for a 60,000-square-foot building to process and sort cardboard, plastics, and other materials. Plans call for the facility to operate Monday through Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and create 20 jobs.

The site would appeal to municipalities, Bonnie Nikituk said: "It's good for our environment and good for our future."

David Schoellkopf, chairman of the board, said many residents were having "not-in-my-backyard syndrome."

"They can at least be civil," Schoellkopf said, adding that a future meeting would be scheduled for a larger space.

The county had no record of or inquiries about the recycling plant yet, Ken Atkinson, chairman of the county's Solid Waste Advisory Council, said Wednesday. Bonnie Nikituk said the couple would apply to the county after receiving the borough's blessing.

Upon approval by the zoning board, the plant could begin construction, Schoellkopf said.

Neighbors, saying they learned about the hearing only after receiving a letter from the Villages' management company's homeowners association, accused the board of not being transparent.

afichera@philly.com856-779-3917 @AJFichera

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