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Officials table controversial rezoning of salvage yard in eastern Berks

The Rockland Township Supervisors have decided against commercially rezoning a pair of properties on Lyons Road, in a decision stemming from concerns from Maxatawny residents about a salvage yard on one of the properties.

Tami Bollinger, a Maxatawny resident whose property neighbors Iron Man Auto Parts and Recycling Services Inc., said the junkyard at 174 Lyons Road had been a nuisance for neighbors.

Bollinger and her son, Alex Bollinger, said the yard’s operations extend late into the night, with the noise making it difficult to sleep.

“He was dumping cars off at 10 p.m.,” Alex Bolinger said. “Can you imagine what cars crashing at a junkyard sounds like?”

Iron Man Auto’s lot straddles the border between Maxatawny and Rockland Townships, with county maps placing the lot over the township line, in Maxatawny’s R-2 Residential zoning district.

Junkyards are not permitted in Maxatawny’s R-2 district.

The salvage yard is operating under a license issued by Rockland Township decades prior, but exists outside of any zoning district, according to township officials.

After lodging a complaint with Rockland Township, the Bollingers learned that officials planned to update its zoning map to add the salvage yard and a neighboring property, 188 Lyons Road, to the township’s commercial zoning district.

The Bollingers said they were worried that rezoning the Lyons Road properties would allow the junkyard to expand its operations potentially into the neighboring property.

Junkyards are permitted by special exception in Rockland’s commercial district.

Rockland Township zoning officer Jackie Hollinger noted that the operation of the salvage yard as it stands would be classified as a “grandfather use” no matter which township it falls in.

She said that if the yard ends up zoned commercially, a special exception would be required if the owners plan to make changes to the property.

Township officials said at a meeting Monday that they were taking the rezoning of the two Lyons Road properties off the table while the township investigates which municipalities the properties are located in.

“We need to have some time to figure this out,” said Rockland Supervisor David Wartzenluft.

Township solicitor Michelle Mayfield said the township is looking at deeds, tax maps, PennDOT maps and other documents to make the determination.

“We don’t want to add zoning to something we may or may not be able to zone,” Mayfield said.

Officials said the rezoning was proposed to align the two properties with Rockland Township’s portion of Lyons Road, which is already zoned commercial.

The Bollingers said they were worried that the junkyard was operating without proper regulation from authorities like the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“You have to drain the car of oil, transmission fluid, take the batteries out,” Alex Bolllinger said. “None of that stuff is happening. All that is going to rust away and go right into the ground.”

Tami Bollinger said she was concerned about oils and other toxins seeping into nearby wells.

“My well is right out front,” Tami Bollinger said.

Township officials investigated the salvage yard in 2021 in response to complaints and found no active violations.

Township zoning officer Jackie Hollenbach said the township hasn’t received any proposals for developing the property at 188 Lyons Road, which consists of a home on 14.7 acres.

The salvage yard property is .77 acres.

That property was formerly owned by Russell “Red” Coffin, a local racer who won the Grandview Speedway Track Championship in 1965.

Coffin also served as Rockland Township supervisor for nearly 18 years.

Coffin, who died in 2015, formerly operated a junk yard on the property.

“If the old man was keeping a couple cars on his property, nobody cared,” Alex Bollinger said. “Then they sold it and it became…there are like 70 school buses and 40 cars on three quarters of an acre. The DEP never shows up and inspects it. He operates whenever he wants.”

The junkyard property was purchased in 2018 by Steve Unis, owner of Iron Man Auto, for $72,000, according to county records.

Unis provided the following statement to the Reading Eagle:

“I am declining to comment or add any credibility to the unfounded allegations they are claiming. The property has been operating as a licensed salvage yard and automotive facility since 1961 and will continue operating as a licensed facility no matter which township we are in.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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