Radford council clears way for recycling business at former foundry

By Paul Ploumis

RADFORD — City Council approved a special-use permit allowing a metal recycling facility to operate on a portion of the old foundry site.

Radford Trading, LLC, which owns the land and the new business, will use a portion of its 70-acre property to process and store scrap metals as well as recycle electronics and copper wiring.

A few citizens expressed concern at last month’s public hearing that the business would bring pollution to the area and could be an eyesore for neighbors.

Co-owner Tommy Bishop had countered those concerns, stating in previous meetings that the majority of the operations would occur in a 175,000-square-foot factory that has “more room than we need.”

Councilwoman Naomi Huntington, who cast the only dissenting vote, said that she could not in good conscience vote in favor of the SUP.

“At the end of the day I couldn’t get over the concerns raised. …I’m not sure they can keep all the recycled materials stored inside,” she said.

Bishop said that only a small portion of the business is outdoors, but it would be blocked from view by the building and landscaping, a stipulation included in the SUP.

He also noted that traffic from the business would pale in comparison to what was coming through when the foundry was up and running, and that the property has been the site of industrial activity since the 1890s, so his business is consistent with what has always been there.

Councilwoman Jessie Foster said that she drives by the site every day and that it is well covered and the SUP does even more to keep it from being an eyesore.

She said that she believes the business will be good for Radford.

Bishop has said that the investment in his new recycling business would likely exceed $5 million and bring eight to 12 “good paying jobs” with the potential for future growth.

Bishop also has said he believes the business could be the anchor tenant in an area that has sat empty since the Grede foundry closed in 2013.

That closure took 250 jobs with it.

Bishop said that his company is in talks with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to figure out what exactly will be required to clean up the property that is plagued with pollution from previous tenants.

He said that cleanup of the factory that will be used mostly involves the removal of old equipment from the facility.

Bishop is also the co-owner of scrap metal facilities in Chilhowie and Princeton, West Virginia, but neither site recycles electronics or copper wiring.

He said it will likely take about a year before the Radford location is up and running.