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South Chicago, East Side

The City Won’t Say When It Will Make A Decision On Controversial Southeast Side Metal Scrapper’s Permit

It's a high-stakes decision, as Southeast Side residents and environmental activists have repeatedly called on the city to deny Southside Recycling its final permit.

The planned location for Southside Recycling, 11600 S. Burley Ave. on Feb. 22, 2021. Three Reserve Management Group recycling facilities currently operate at the East Side site.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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EAST SIDE — A controversial metal scrapper that aims to open on the Southeast Side submitted more information on its business plan and potential environmental impacts to city health officials Wednesday.

Southside Recycling, which aims to open at 11600 S. Burley Ave., submitted more than 1,100 pages of information on the “cumulative impact” of its proposed operation and four existing facilities at the East Side site last week. The submission comes after the city said they would delay a decision on allowing the scrapper to open.

Now, the city’s Health Department won’t say when they’ll make a decision on the controversial scrapper.

It’s a high-stakes decision, as Southeast Side residents and environmental activists have repeatedly called on the city to deny Southside Recycling its final permit. Eleven people participated in a one-month hunger strike that ended March 4 with a rally near Lightfoot’s home.

The scrapper’s plans are also subject to an ongoing federal housing investigation, a separate federal environmental investigation currently suspended pending mediation and a lawsuit in federal court.

Information on shared equipment and employees, sales of materials between companies, waste management procedures and more are included in Southside Recycling’s latest submission to the city.

The submission comes after the Chicago Department of Public Health delayed its decision on whether to issue an operating permit to Southside Recycling March 15 — the final day of a 60-day review period. Officials cited a desire to assess the environmental effects of the proposed scrapper and others already operating at 116th Street and Burley Avenue.

The city’s request regarding the facilities’ cumulative impact marked the second time health officials asked Southside Recycling for more information about its permit application.

The existing facilities’ cumulative impact has “already been accounted for” during the company’s nine-month review process for state regulators, Southside Recycling officials said in their response to the city’s most recent request.

“It is difficult to imagine how any further delay [in issuing a city operating permit] could be motivated by environmental or other public safety concerns,” company officials wrote.

Southside Recycling applied for its operating permit Nov. 11, one day after federal housing officials called upon the city to pause its permit review. The feds are investigating a civil rights complaint triggered by the city’s agreement to facilitate troubled scrapper General Iron’s exit from Lincoln Park.

General Iron’s assets and Southside Recycling are owned by Reserve Management Group. Adam Labkon — the former General Iron vice president whose family owned the company for generations — holds the largest individual stake in Southside Recycling at 20 percent, according to public records obtained by Block Club.

Southside Recycling applied for the operating permit again in January, after health officials found nearly three dozen “deficiencies” in its first submission. The company responded to the city’s request for information on the Burley Avenue facilities’ cumulative impact Wednesday.

The health department does not have a timeframe for reviewing the submission, an unnamed spokesperson in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said in a statement Friday.

Health department guidelines say the city will decide whether a recycling facility’s application meets all necessary requirements within 60 days after an application is posted online.

Monday marks 74 days since Southside Recycling filed its second application and 138 days since its initial attempt.

“We will take the time that is necessary to analyze this submission before deciding whether to issue a draft permit,” the spokesperson said. “If a draft permit is issued, there would be an additional 30-day comment period during which further input on these materials is welcome.”

The guidelines also say the health department may give scrappers one final opportunity to file a completed application if any deficiencies are found after two attempts.

“If, after reviewing [a refiled application, the health department] finds that the application is still incomplete or does not meet all requirements, [the health department] will either … provide a final opportunity to remedy them, or will issue a permit denial letter,” the guidelines state.

The company’s submission from last week can be viewed here. The health department will accept public feedback on the information at envcomments@cityofchicago.org.

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