By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Plans for a temporary recycling center in the downtown area have hit a snag, and some Enid residents have been left wondering when there will be another one.
Jen O’Steen, assistant city attorney, said the city owns property on North Grand near Elm Street, where a temporary recycling center was planned. However, an individual who was using the property has refused to give it up, and the city is in court trying to obtain possession of its own land.
Dustin Wood, a neighboring business owner, requested to use the property and the city allowed him to use it — rent-free — with some restrictions. Wood had to place signage on it, and no overnight parking was allowed, O’Steen said.
Wood approached the city in 2010, and the lease was drawn up and signed. Wood was allowed to use the property during business hours for business and staff. When the decision was made to place the recycling center there, the lease was terminated according to the agreement, O’Steen said.
However, instead of vacating the premises, Wood opposed placing the recycling center at the location and has refused to vacate the property, O’Steen said. The lease was terminated in March, and Wood was given until April 30 to move.
In August, the city filed a forcible entry and detainer against Wood to evict him from the property, O’Steen said, but he did not leave. The case was continued by Special District Judge Norman Grey to allow Wood more time to obtain an attorney.
At the second appearance, his attorney filed an entry of appearance the day before the hearing, and another continuance was granted so the attorney could become familiar with the case. The next hearing date is Dec. 20, she said.
“He said he didn’t want the recycling center placed there, it would hurt his business. We asked him to find another spot for the recycling center, hoping we could find a mutually agreeable situation,” O’Steen said. “Now everybody in the city is inconvenienced because he doesn’t think it will look good.”
The plan still is to temporarily place the recycling center at North Grand and Elm; it was never intended to be permanent, O’Steen said. She said it is frustrating because he has not paid the city anything and has used the property for free. All he had to do was keep it up and prevent overnight parking.
“Now, he has been there two-and-a-half years rent-free on public property,” O’Steen said.
O’Steen said the city’s action is not personal, but it is looking at the greater good. She said one person should not be able to hold up the desired project.
“We would like to put the recycling center back in town and not at the landfill,” O’Steen said. “The bottom line is, we tried to do it in a patient, compassionate and thoughtful way, giving him other places to put his property.”
Enid resident Sandy Williams said she is concerned about the lack of recycling in town. She said the city closed the one west of Convention Hall and the city promised there would be another place.
“I’m kind of a naturalist, and I believe in recycling and reusing what we can to keep the environment as clean as possible. I have a garage full of recycling, and I refuse to take it to the dump,” Williams said.
Williams contacted the Enid News & Eagle with questions about the recycling center.
“In Europe, you pay a huge fine for trash in front of your house; maybe we need to do that here,” Williams said.
Contacted at his business Thursday, Wood said the city is trying to evict him, but the biggest thing they are doing is trying to change the use of the property without giving notice to people around it.
“If someone wanted to do a change of use, they would have to notify people and do traffic studies, and the city hasn’t done any of that,” Wood said. O’Steen said the city is not required to post property that will be used in a temporary manner. If the recycling center is placed there permanently, the city would be required to post notice, she said.
Wood said the city bought the property as “offshore” parking for the Enid Renaissance Project. Wood claims to have invested expenses in preparing the lot, such as leveling it and striping it. He has no problem with the property being used as a parking lot, but does want to have some input in whatever else goes there because he owns several properties in the area.
Wood said traffic backs up in the afternoon from vehicles leaving the Hiland Tower and Triangle Insurance buildings, and he said a recycling center would cause further congestion.
“I have no problem with them putting a recycling center there, but I want them to do all the things anyone else would have to do. Make a nice-looking fence, this is downtown Enid. I can’t imagine anyone being able to put up a chain-link fence. ... This is in the downtown Square,” he said.
Wood said the lease is vague about when it has to be vacated, and the court system will determine it.
Calls to Wood’s attorney for comment were not returned at press time.