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United To Fight

Whitehaven residents to battle unregulated businesses.

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Whitehaven residents were recently victorious in their fight to stop a proposed auto salvage yard from moving near a residential area. Now they're looking for another fight -- against unregulated businesses on Brooks Road.

A group of more than 250 residents convinced owners of Pull-a-Part, a chain of salvage yards, not to locate on 25 acres at the corner of Brooks and Graves a few weeks after a heated public meeting between the Atlanta-based company and Whitehaven residents. The company's announcement, made at a City Council meeting last week, was met by cheers from residents involved in the fight.

"We withdrew because of the opposition of the neighborhood," said Mark Cohen, co-founder of Pull-a-Part. "It was a losing battle to try and convince them they were wrong about what we could have brought to their community."

Pull-a-Part was attempting to acquire a special-use permit to re-zone the site from light industrial to heavy industrial. The company advertises itself as the "un-junkyard," which Cohen said is due to the company's environmentally-sensitive business practices. But Whitehaven residents contended that they didn't want a salvage yard anywhere near residences on Graves. Gabe Pryor, a Whitehaven resident and a former code inspector, spoke about other "unregulated businesses" on Brooks that residents felt were a threat. He said if Pull-a-Part moved in, it would only cause more problems.

Now, residents say they've got more work to do. Several of them plan to form a new citizen-action group aimed at getting rid of businesses they believe harbor unregulated environmental hazards.

"We intend to expand all over Whitehaven, and we've had calls from other Whitehaven groups that want to combine efforts," said Pryor, who will be chairing a committee to unite the groups. "We plan on getting Brooks Road taken care of."

First on the agenda is Southern Disposal, a waste-transfer facility located at 621 East Brooks Road. According to Pryor, residents believe the facility has been violating city environmental codes for some time.

"There's toxic waste and garbage strewn all over their lot. They're supposed to put the toxic waste in containers, seal it, and take it to another location, but it's being left on the premises too long," said Pryor, who recently turned over a proposal to the City Council addressing the need for clean-up at the site. "The smell is just horrible, and it's directly behind a residential area. It brings in snakes and rodents."

Pryor said the new group will start by pulling Southern Disposal's permit to determine what requirements the facility is supposed to be meeting. He said they'll be checking city codes and zoning requirements for the site as well. Calls by the Flyer to Southern Disposal were not returned.

Pryor said the group isn't opposed to new businesses on Brooks, but Whitehaven residents want businesses to know that they'll be watching.

As for Pull-a-Part, company consultant Cindy Reaves said the company is looking into other possible sites in Memphis. Cohen, however, wouldn't confirm whether they are actively seeking a site in Memphis or not. He said that although his business didn't manage to convince residents that it would be a good neighbor, he's glad to see that the Pull-a-Part situation united Whitehaven residents.

"I guess the consolation prize out of this is that we've helped a community define itself," he said. •

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