Requirements surrounding the location and operation of salvage facilities frequently raise legal questions. When the Vermont State Legislature drafted the salvage facility laws, it noted the importance that salvage yards play in the recycling of materials, but that poorly operated salvage yards have the potential to “significantly impact and contaminate the natural resources of Vermont.” The following is a brief overview of the statutory requirements.
Q. What is a salvage yard (formally known as a junk yard)?
A. The term “salvage yard” means any place of outdoor storage or deposit for storing, keeping, processing, buying, or selling junk or as a scrap metal processing facility. Salvage yard also means outdoor area used for operation of an automobile graveyard. “Automobile graveyard” means a yard, field, or other outdoor area on a property owned or controlled by a person and used or maintained for storing or depositing four or more junk motor vehicles.
“Automobile graveyard” does not include:
an area used by an automobile hobbyist to store, organize, restore, or display motor vehicles or parts of such vehicles, provided that the hobbyist’s activities comply with all applicable federal, state, and municipal law;
an area used for the storage of motor vehicles exempt from registration under chapter 7 of Title 23: wood splitters and pole dinkeys;
an area owned or used by a dealer registered under 23 V.S.A. § 453 for the storage of motor vehicles; or
an area used or maintained for the parking or storage of operational commercial motor vehicles, as that term is defined in 23 V.S.A. § 4103(4), that are temporarily out of service and unregistered but are expected to be used in the future by the vehicle operator or owner.
The term “salvage yard” does not mean a garage where wrecked or disabled motor vehicles are stored for less than 90 days for inspection or repairs. *Facilities permitted by the ANR as solid waste facilities are exempt from municipal regulation as a salvage yard. (15)*
Q. What are a municipalities’ responsibilities?
A. The law gives municipalities the authority to regulate location of salvage yards. Municipalities may impose screening requirements, appropriate location conditions and appropriate environmental and public health conditions. The law also gives the municipalities the right to inspect salvage yards to make sure they comply with the law and set back requirements.
Municipalities’ enforcement authority includes field penalty authority, ability to obtain a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction or permanent injunction against a salvage yard which is in violation of terms of the statute or the Certificate of Approved Location (CAL) in Environmental Court. The municipalities have these rights with, or without, having zoning or a local salvage yard ordinance.
Q. What are the licensing procedures for opening a salvage yard?
A. Generally, a person cannot operate or maintain a salvage yard unless the person has obtained the following: (1) a Certificate of Approval (CAL) for the location of the salvage yard; and (2) a Certificate of Registration from VT ANR for the location of the salvage yard.
Contact the Town by phone or mail asking for an application for a certificate of approved location (CAL) for a salvage yard (either where the salvage yard is located or where it is proposed to be located).
Once you receive the form, read it carefully to make sure you have all other permits required under state or federal environmental law before you turn in the application, because you must make copies of those permits and attach them to the application.
There is an application fee of twenty-five ($25.00) that must be made payable to the municipality when you turn in the form.
4. Once the Town gets your application, they will place a notification of Advance Public Notice of a hearing on the application in the local newspaper. Within 30 days a Public Hearing will be held allowing the applicant and adjacent landowners to participate. A decision will be made within 30 days approving or denying the CAL which may include additional conditions.
5. After CAL has been approved, an Application for Certificate of Registration must be obtained by Vermont DEC, completed and submitted with a copy of the approved CAL within 30 days.
Q. What does a municipality’s review of an application for a CAL include?
A. A public hearing on the application will be held. There are specific requirements for municipalities to consider when reviewing the application for Certification of Approval for proposed location of a salvage yard. These considerations include but are not limited to:
The salvage yard is not located within a protected area (i.e. near drinking water, wetlands, buffer zones, etc.)
The salvage yard is not located such that it is visible from the main traveled way at any season of the year.
The location of the salvage yard will not affect public health, safety, environment, protections from a nuisance condition and aesthetics; and
The local governing body may take into account general aesthetic considerations and whether the proposed use will have a negative aesthetic impact on the surroundings. For example, the governing body may consider such factors as: the road the salvage facility would abut (and from which the facility may be seen); natural and artificial barriers protecting the facility from view; the proximity to established tourist and recreational areas or main access routes thereto; as well as the reasonable availability of other suitable sites.
Q. Irrespective of these factors, does the law prohibit the locating of salvage facilities in certain locations? A. Yes. No one may place, discard or abandon a junk motor vehicle in a place where it is visible from the main traveled way of a highway nor may anyone abandon or discard any motor vehicle upon the land of another with or without the consent of the land owner. Motor vehicles so placed, discarded or abandoned are hereby declared to be a public nuisance.
Q. When must the governing body render a decision on a salvage facility application? A. Within 30 days of the hearing, the governing body must make a finding regarding the approval or denial of the application, with notice to the applicant, postage prepaid. If approved, the governing body is required to issue the license, including the granted certificate of approval location (CAL).
Q. Once approved, does a salvage facility license need to be renewed?
A. Yes.Statute requires that a certificate of approved location have a term of not less than three (3) and not more than five (5) years. The length of the certification period is decided by the Selectboard. Renewal is based on the following:
All the provisions of the salvage facility statute have been complied with during the previous license period; the salvage facility has not become a public nuisance under the common law; and the applicant is not convicted of any type of larceny or receiving stolen property.
If the junkyard is found to be non-compliant, the Selectboard shall enter an annual inspection indicating the junkyard failed the inspection and shall change the junkyard status to illegal. Changing the status of the salvageyard to illegal will automatically generate a 60 Day Salvage Yard Letter.
Q. Can a governing body require an applicant to put a fence around the salvage facility?
A. Yes. Prior to opening, a new salvage facility must be completely surrounded with thick natural screening by trees or shrubs, or a solidly constructed fence. The fence must be maintained.