Commission rejects Easley tire processor

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — The auditorium of the county administrative building was packed full of residents wishing to speak out against a proposed tire processing plant in Easley on Monday night.

But those waiting to speak didn’t have a chance after the Pickens County Planning Commission voted down the company’s application.

Advanced Resource Materials LLC hoped to build a facility at 165A Dancer Drive, a portion of the former Perception Kayaks facility. Regulatory consultant J.D. Daskalakos, speaking on behalf of the company, spoke before the commission and began by clearing up misconceptions about the proposed business, which was classified as a junkyard under county development standards.

“It seems like there’s obviously a lot of apprehension and some misinformation about what this project is about, what it’s intended to do and what its impact will be on the community,” Daskalakos said. “We’re going to be open and transparent.

“It’s an unfortunate drafting problem that the only place y’all felt we fit in the code was under a junkyard. We’re not a junkyard.”

The business would not store tires, he said.

“We process them,” Daskalakos said.

He said the company wished to provide a solution to the growing problem of waste tires which, when left outside and filled with standing water, can be “a mosquito breeding ground.”

“If it catches on fire, it’s a real problem,” Daskalakos said.

“We have a process where we can take the waste tire and basically not burn it — we decompose it with indirect heat and a chemical process,” he said.

That process produces a substance known as carbon char, “almost a black peanut brittle,” Daskalakos said.

The company collects that material and sells it to manufacturers, who use it to manufacture new tires.

The process also produces Tire Derived Fuel, which is similar to diesel fuel, and scrap metal, which can be sold off.

He said company officials know the community is concerned about odors produced by the facility.

“If you burn a tire, you’re going to seriously nasty uncontrolled emissions,” Daskalakos said. “Our process doesn’t produce (that).”

Any gas produced by the process is recycled back into the chamber, he said.

Area residents were also concerned about tires being stored outside.

Daskalakos said tires would be brought directly by trailer into the facility and forklifted into the chamber.

“There’s never going to be a tire stored outdoors,” Daskalakos said. “That’s what we’ve committed to DHEC, that’s what we commit to you, that’s what we commit to the community. Our idea is to be invisible to pretty much everybody except for the people that are working there.”

Air quality would be monitored by several systems, he said.

“If something goes wrong, we’re going to shut it down,” Daskalakos said. “Lord knows we’re not trying to make anybody sick.”

Proximity to both Michelin and Clemson makes Easley an attractive location for the business, Daskalakos said.

“This is the tire manufacturing capital of the world,” he said. “We are the solution. We’re not the problem.”

Commissioners had a number of questions for Daskalakos concerning the facility, including emissions, fire suppression, filtration and truck traffic.

Daskalakos said the company’s process essentially made the location a “zero-emissions facility.”

He said the understood concerns about traffic. The facility would receive about three trucks every two days.

The Easley facility would be a test of the system’s economic viability. Having many trucks waiting to enter the facility would not be good for business, Daskalakos said.

Planning commission chairman Bill Cato acknowledged the crowd waiting to speak. He asked if anyone wished to speak in favor of the company’s application. No one did.

After stating that it was the commission’s policy to only allot 10 minutes for the residents to address the commission in a public hearing, Cato said he believed the company’s application would not pass.

“All of these people out here, they represent Pickens County,” Cato said. “We represent them.”

He said the application did not meet the county’s requirements for setbacks.

“Nowhere close,” Cato said. “One of your setbacks is on the property line.”

Daskalakos objected, saying that the plans adhered to DHEC’s requirements for buffers.

“We’re not DHEC,” Cato said. “We’re Pickens County.”

Cato said the plant is too close to residences and two churches.

County planning staff also recommended to the commission that the application be rejected.

Had the facility met the requirements of the county’s ordinance, the commission would have had no choice but to approve the application, Cato said.

“The way this works is, if your proposal is totally in compliance with the standards ordinance, we can’t stop you — no matter how bad they want you not to be there, we can’t stop you, not really, if you’re in compliance,” he said. “Unfortunately, you’re not.”

Commissioners rejected the company’s application 5-0, with commissioner Dennis Reinert absent.

After the vote, the crowd gave the commission a standing ovation.

Daskalakos said he felt the development standards ordinance was penalizing the company and its plans unfairly.

“It talks about junkyards and it talks about storage,” he said. “We do neither.”

After the meeting, Daskalakos said the company was left with several options.

“No. 1, appeal this decision,” he said. “No. 2, we could revise the application and come back. No. 3, we could just take the position that the junkyard ordinance does not apply, we’re in compliance with preexisting DHEC regs — come and stop us.”

The company had already received DHEC approval, he said, and is fully compliant with both EPA and state regulations.

He said the county needs to fix its ordinance.

“The way that ordinance works is that any tire dealer is technically a junkyard, because they’re storing tires,” Daskalakos said.

He said he didn’t think it would come down to litigation.

“It’s technically an option, but that’s just not the way we want to go. We’re trying to be good neighbors,” Daskalakos said.