As we mentioned yesterday, the city council's Trinity River Corridor Project Committee was briefed on what should be done about the scrap metal recyclers located near the Trinity corridor, which are gumming up the city's "vision" for the Trinity project. Theresa O'Donnell, director of development services, urged the committee for direction on options ranging from leaving the businesses as-is to closing them down immediately.
"One of hardest decisions is how to treat non-conforming uses when there's a disconnect between the future vision and what's on the ground today," O'Donnell said. "The presence of the scrap metal dealers does not help fulfill the Trinity vision."
Council member Mitchell Rasansky said he was surprised the issue was being discussed and claimed that asking the 25 scrap metal recyclers in Dallas to relocate is the wrong way to treat businesses.
"You want these people to move? Get the city of Dallas's pocketbook ready," he said. "I'm not here to put anyone out of business. I'm just not going to do it, and this is a joke."
As the couple dozen owners of scrap yards in the audience looked on, Rasansky said they should be reimbursed for their land and 20 years of income, and he estimated the cost at $500 million. He then proceeded to dress down poor Dorcy Clark, the city's economic development coordinator.
"I'm sure you're a very nice person, but you're smiling," Rasansky said. "These people have there their whole lives, generation after generation, and we're trying to put them out of business. And that is not the American way to do things."
He then criticized the city's decision to meet one-on-one with the owners as opposed to as a group, noting that people feel more intimidated when meeting individually.
"Is there a reason we didn't meet with them as a group?" Rasansky asked. "Hello?"
"Mr. Rasansky, let's stay professional," committee chair Dave Neumann said.
"I'm staying professional," Rasansky said. "I want them to stay professional too."
"Mr. Rasansky..." Neuman said.
"I am talking to them, Mr. Chairman. I am talking to them," Rasansky said. "Don't interrupt me, and I won't interrupt you on a case like this. May I ask you why you did not get them all together at one time?"
"I'd be happy to answer that," replied a visibly shaken Clark. "We just felt like meeting with them individually, we could understand their business needs and really understand what was important to them. And we were afraid of sharing business information from one company to another."
Rasansky was also upset that no one from the industry was included on the task force charged with addressing this issue, with Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan stressing that the task force was a city staff effort and the briefing was initial, not final.
"This is too of a drastic a move to even talk this way," Rasansky said. "I think it's very frightening."
Rasansky also provided a sneak peek of his new thoughts regarding the Trinity Turnpike briefing that followed.
"I'm not so sure about our toll road now," he said.
Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said he wants to make sure the conversation on the issue is "all inclusive," stressing that a decision will be made based on "what's best for everybody." He also pointed out that part of the targeting of these businesses was the recent wave of thefts related to copper, but Caraway noted that crime related to metal theft has decreased.
Carolyn Davis offered up her usual dose of tension as everyone in the room cringed every time she referred the scrap metal as "strap metal."
Ultimately, Neumann said the committee has not settled on a position, only saying there is a consensus that the owners should be met with as a group. He stressed that the briefing was only meant to open discussion and described it as a "city issue that we're going to grapple with."
Neumann told O'Donnell that he would follow up with her as to where the staff should go next, and he said the issue should be addressed, but how and when are the questions left to be resolved.