â Owner contests findings of towncodes officer&_byline2;Staff WriterPLATTSBURGH — Renewal of a license is again leading to dissension between a junkyard owner and the Town of Plattsburgh.Ed Champagne, who owns a junkyard located at 271 Rugar St., had his junkyard license renewed by a 3-2 vote at a Plattsburgh Town Council meeting on March 19.Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett and councilors Sheila Brockway and John St. Germain voted in favor of the license, while councilors Gerard Renadette and Tom Wood voted against it.
In giving his report, Town of Plattsburgh Codes Enforcement Officer Don Lee recommended that a section of fencing and a better gate be installed along the Reeves Lane entrance to the junkyard.Currently, a steel cable with small red cloth strips and a large, pink piece of plastic is used to block that entrance.Lee said that cable could be hazardous to someone riding a recreational vehicle, such as a four-wheeler or dirt bike, across the junkyard.The Reeves Lane side of the junkyard is screened by woods, tractor-trailer trailers and large pieces of penstock pipe.
Champagne has operated the junkyard for more than 30 years, and St. Germain said he's never received a complaint."I think it was political," St. Germain said.Champagne had run, unsuccessfully, against former Town Supervisor Andrew Abdallah.Lee denied that allegation."I don't play that game, either," Lee said. "I made that decision on my own."
At the Town Council's meeting this week, Champagne addressed councilors to dispute parts of Lee's March report.Champagne said the current gate was acceptable when his license was renewed last year. He said the site is appropriately screened, as defined under New York State Highway Law that covers junkyards.It states that junkyards within 1,000 feet of an interstate or primary highway need to be screened by natural objects, planting, fences or other appropriate means so as not to be visible from the main traveled way of the highway.He also said Lee told the council the penstock pipe sections were fuel tanks. Tuesday, Lee said he wouldn't argue with that.Champagne questioned whether Lee has a personal vendetta against him. Lee said there is certainly no vendetta."I have nothing personal against Mr. Champagne. What benefit could there be to me?" he asked.If Lee is so concerned about public safety, Champagne said, he should do something about the condition of the former Norco Concrete property and the former compost plant just west of his property, where decayed and rotting structures present many hazards.Lee said those are City of Plattsburgh properties, so he doesn't have authority.
Champagne and Lee both questioned why the Town Council voted on the junkyard license when they had not made a visit to the site.Bassett said the council listened to Lee's report of his concerns and made the decision to grant the license based on that."Mr. Lee did his job; he brought his concerns to the board," Bassett said."There is some latitude on how to conceal something like a junkyard from the community. A vote was taken, and he (Champagne) got his license."