Recycling plant's foes say lack of information fuels their anger

Posted: March 02, 2014

CLAYTON Donna Truesdell describes her current home in The Villages, Fla., as "Disneyland for adults." The retirement community has three town squares, countless swimming pools - even its own charter school for employees.

So Truesdell, a 64-year-old former program analyst for the Department of Defense, was less than thrilled to learn this week that her future home, in Clayton's Villages at Aberdeen, may get a recycling plant nearby.

"I was a little leery of the light-industrial stuff that was already bordering the one side of the development," said Truesdell, who plans to move in this summer to help care for an ailing sister in Sewell.

"It isn't so much the processing that goes on inside - I mean, you've got all the trucks going inside and out."

Truesdell's concerns were echoed by dozens at a planning and zoning board meeting in Clayton's Borough Hall on Wednesday night that was abruptly postponed as the 90 attendees surpassed the room's 77-person capacity.

In the days since, however, the bigger complaint even among some opponents is that they know very little about the plan.

In addition to worries about noise and traffic, residents of the Villages at Aberdeen and the neighboring Reserves at Academy Walk maintain that the borough has not been proactive in informing them of the plans and hearing.

"They should do some due diligence on this and present us with facts," said Russell Chaney, 63, of June Ann Drive, a stretch of neatly kept houses. "When you have a situation like this, rumors run rampant."

John Alice, the attorney for the zoning and planning board, said Friday that residents had received "misinformation" about the application for a 60,000-square-foot recycling center on Cenco Boulevard. The plant would join a number of other businesses in Clayton's Corporate Center, an industrial park.

Alice said it was not the role of the borough or the board to notify residents of the project. State law, he noted, requires the applicants only to inform property owners within 200 feet of the project.

The plant - projected to employ 20 people and recycle single-stream materials such as cardboard and glass - would be little more than a sorting facility, Alice said.

Applicants Bonnie and John Nikituk of Deptford maintain that their facility will not have the rumored ill effects. Bonnie Nikituk said a traffic study she would present at the rescheduled hearing would show minimal adverse impacts.

"We're coming to put in a beautiful, state-of-the art operation," Nikituk said. "It's going to help everybody; it's going to help their grandchildren."

Nikituk described herself and her husband as "business people" who owned a self-storage facility in Gloucester City for a decade and a metal-recycling yard for six years in Deptford.

She said they sold the latter two years ago, signing an agreement to not continue metal recycling elsewhere.

She said that there are no homes within 200 feet of the proposed plant and that businesses within that zone were notified.

Several residents, including John Ardite, 72, said Friday they simply wanted answers.

Ardite, who owned a local insurance agency before retiring, moved to June Ann Drive seven years ago with his wife, Jeannette. The couple downsized to their two-bedroom, two-bath home from a house in Glassboro.

The community offered maintenance and other appealing amenities - the "perfect" retirement home, Ardite said. Three electric candles lined the windowsill of their home Friday.

So when Ardite first heard about the recycling facility, he pictured billowing smoke and heavy industry. But after learning more about the project, Ardite said, he's prepared to listen to the applicants present their project. A meeting, possibly at the borough's elementary school, will likely take place this month.

"There are many questions," Ardite said. "I want to know what I'm objecting to, or what I'm approving."

856-779-3917 @AJFichera

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