Zoning decisions up next in effort for recycling location

Venango County appears to have settled on a new site for a county-wide recycling center, but some zoning hurdles will need to be resolved at the Cranberry Township location.

Eric Johnson, the recycling and solid waste coordinator for the county planning commission, said at the panel’s meeting this week that a perfect home appears to have been found in the old Sears Automotive Center at the Cranberry Mall.

A few other spots had previously been eyed for the recycling center since the county received a $345,502 state grant late last year for the project.

The automotive center was already mostly partitioned from the retail portion of the former Sears, with its own bathrooms and loading dock, Johnson said. And the facility has ample outdoor space to suit the center’s needs, he added.

“The outside space is important for the housing of bins” as well as providing space for waste removal trucks to maneuver, Johnson said. The outside space would also mean less congestion for center patrons, he added.

Johnson said the biggest hurdle now is the mall’s zoning classification in Cranberry Township as commercial 2.

Ben Breniman, the township zoning officer, said the township doesn’t have language in it’s zoning ordinances to include a recycling center at the mall.

“There are two or three alternatives,” he said.

Breniman said those options would all result in a lengthy amount of advertising and decision making, and he said the process would likely take several weeks.

“It takes some time and there’s a legal process the state requires municipalities to go through,” Breniman said.

Mall property manager Jeff Clark said everything needed for the recycling center to call the mall home has been finished on his end, and now “it’s all up to the zoning.”

Johnson and Clark believe the recycling center would be beneficial to the mall, and they anticipate a small window of construction once the process begins.

“Number one, we’re leasing the space and putting it to use,” said Clark. “It’s more traffic.”

Johnson also wanted to quell worries that the center, wherever it may end up, will become an eyesore.

“People are worried that this is going to be a junkyard and that is not the case,” Johnson said. He explained that the area will be fenced in and include security cameras to prevent the illegal dumping of items like scrap metal or washing machines.

“It’s all household recyclables,” he said.

Johnson said the business model behind the center hasn’t been entirely worked out, but he anticipates that some on-site baling of cardboard and paper will occur at the center, leading to an opportunity for potential jobs.