OAKLEY -- City leaders this week took the next step toward shutting down a recycling company that is not allowed at the spot where it has been operating for years.
The Oakley City Council affirmed a tentative conclusion it had reached this spring about Chip-it Recycling, a family-owned business at 175 Sandy Lane that the city has found to be violating the zoning code.
The business has been recovering recyclable materials from construction and demolition debris and accepting yard waste for the better part of two decades at the site, which is zoned for light-industrial use.
The city notified Chip-it's owner, Joe Bernardini, last year that he was violating the city's solid waste ordinance by also dismantling automobiles and accepting materials not related to the building industry.
The effects on the environment -- pollutants seeping into groundwater and noise and dust from additional trucks driving back and forth on an unpaved access road -- as well as on neighboring homes and vineyards were such that the city said he needed a conditional use permit to continue operating.
The business appealed, arguing that the paperwork was unnecessary because it had been using the property legally before Oakley's zoning rules took effect.
But after listening to evidence presented during a public hearing in May, the council disagreed, saying that even before the city's incorporation when Chip-it was subject to county ordinances it should have
Now the company must apply for a permit or file an appeal once the city initiates the abatement process, which includes a 30-day notice to vacate the premises.
"It needs to stop," Councilman Jim Frazier said. "You have been way out of (the) parameters."
But Councilman Randy Pope said he would like Chip-it to be able to continue operating while its owner gets the proper papers as long as it scales back the scope of its activities to what it was originally.
"I'm not comfortable just shutting you down," he said.
As for Bernardini himself, he said the tenor of the discussion at Tuesday's meeting only validated his decision not to pursue a permit.
"It would be a losing battle," he said, noting that city officials have told him it would cost in the six figures -- including tens of thousands just for an environmental review -- to apply for one without any guarantee it would be approved.
And even if he eventually did get the green light, Bernardini expects the city would require him to shell out more money for things such as paving over dirt areas and getting hook-ups to city water and sewer lines.
He said he instead plans to seek legal counsel while continuing to look for other sites in the East Bay.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.