By Mark Waite
While Two Brothers Junk sits on a remote parcel in Johnnie, sitting alone but visible from Highway 160, silhouetted among the vast, empty desert and towering mountains two miles north of Roadrunner Road, it’s not far enough to escape the regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission.
Brothers Sergio and Oscar Gonzalez were cited by Nye County code compliance for expanding their junkyard onto an unpaved, adjacent parcel that didn’t meet the grandfather exemptions for an existing business.
They escorted a blind Urban Chavez up to the microphone to translate for them in their second appearance before the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission last Wednesday.
Two Brothers Junk asked for a master plan amendment and zone change to convert both parcels, totaling 4.2 acres, to heavy industrial and a waiver of development standards requiring paving, landscaping and screening.
Planners recommended approving the zone change and master plan amendment but they wouldn’t recommend a waiver from a county code that requires lots larger than 5,000 square feet to be paved, Two Brothers Junk wanted a waiver for a 91,476 square-foot parcel.
The Nye County District Attorney’s Office ruled the grandfathered use permitting the original junkyard on an unpaved lot couldn’t be expanded.
Chavez said the lot across the street from the existing junkyard would be for storage.
“It’s solid rock. There’s nothing that’s going to get into the water table. This is better than concrete, even when you put type two asphalt on your driveways, or put a pad on your house,” Chavez said.
Pahrump Town Board member Harley Kulkin, who lives in Johnnie, didn’t think converting the properties from rural estates to heavy industrial was the solution.
“This is a classic case of trying to solve one problem by creating another problem. I think the solution was in the beginning to give them a waiver for the other property,” Kulkin said. “By rezoning to heavy industrial you’re basically saying there could be a gravel pit, a dump or any nature of things I doubt the neighbors would like.”
RPC member Greg Hafen II agreed with Kulkin.
Paving contractor Rene Morales said it would cost Two Brothers Junk $300,000 to pave that size lot. RPC member Joe Goode Sr. wanted to waive the paving requirement.
“You’re out in the boonies out there for crying out loud. You’re way out there in the area where it’s no man’s land,” Goode said.
There was a question at the December meeting why that area was even in the Pahrump Regional Planning District.
RPC member John Koenig said he was for the waiver originally, but the paving requirement was added in 2006 after pressure from federal environmental officials over the dust in Pahrump Valley.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threatened to list Pahrump as a non-attainment area under federal air quality standards.
Koenig asked planners to study revising the code to allow someone with a grandfathered use to expand, without leaving it wide open to abuse. In the meantime, the application by Two Brothers Junk was tabled until the May RPC meeting.
* Mike Armstrong was given a conditional use permit to open a storage lot for his business, Aquarius Towing, on a 1.1-acre parcel in a general commercial district at 4351 E. Dandelion St., near Highway 160. But he was told all vehicles will have to be parked on a paved area, even trailers.
Armstrong said he will be open normal business hours, with an overflow lot for vehicles from the primary yard for his towing business, which consists of vehicles towed for roadside assistance, banks, insurance recovery, personal impounds and abandoned vehicles.
He estimated there will be 10 to 20 vehicles on the lot at any time. Aquarius Towing is not on the sheriff’s department wrecker rotation list, planner Beth Lee said.
RPC member Bob King thought the lot should be lighted, something Lee said was up to the discretion of the property owner, if so there would be height limits, lights would have to be shielded and downward facing. The parcel was the site of a gas station in 1984.
Dorothy Bromley, a resident of Autumnwood subdivision, whose residents have complained for years about Lewis Equipment Company, part of the commercialization of that strip of Dandelion Street adjacent to their homes, said numerous residents would object to this proposal.
She said afterwards the lights of the nearby RV Superstore are already brightly illuminating the night sky.
Bromley was afraid the junked vehicles would attract vermin. Armstrong said he had fencing around the property sunk into the ground and the property was also screened.
“It’s a beautiful little subdivision. We have sidewalks. The homes are lovely, even the ones in foreclosure are managing to stay quite nice. We’ve had to fight with Lewis Equipment, fortunately a lot of that is open work and doesn’t harbor a lot of vermin,” Bromley said.
“Visual in Pahrump is awful. This is not a pretty town. We have hoarders, we have junk yards, we have all sorts of storage places for construction businesses. If you were going to put this business across the street from the winery you would have a real uproar. Why are we any different?” she asked.
Neighboring property owner Bruce Bilyeu said development standards aren’t being applied as it is, Armstrong admitted he’s already had vehicles stored on the lot for about a month before the permit was approved. Bilyeu was worried it would turn into a junkyard with more than the allowed vehicles.
“My intention is not to degrade the neighborhood, my intention is to in the future, develop the property and sell the property. It’s not in my interest to devalue property values,” Armstrong said.