Fenced In

Auto Recycler Butts Heads With County



Brian Overturf, Owner of A-1 Auto Salvage in Farmington, N.M. is at odds with his county over a $200,000, 8-foot privancy fence.

PHOTO: FUSIONBYSTUDIO11.COM

A-1 Auto Salvage (A1AutoSalvageNM.com) is located on County Road 6100 near Farmington, N.M., and has been an auto recycling facility for nearly 50 years. However, if owner Brian Overturf doesn't spend nearly $200,000 on an 8-foot privacy fence by June 1, 2013, the business may close.

That's because Overturf has yet to decide if he will spend the money to meet new county demands. And, if he doesn't, the county could force him to close.

San Juan County, where A-1 Auto Salvage is located, recently approved ordinance 72, a new set of "junk" vehicle rules - created to mirror the national Highway Beautification Act - that requires auto recycling facilities and scrap processing facilities to screen the property along federal-, state- or county-maintained roads, if the facility is located within 1,000 feet of those roads. The ordinance further requires the screening to be 8 feet in height, made of materials uniform in color and appearance and painted to blend with the natural color of the landscape.

Overturf is crying foul since the back of the business sits 4,000-feet from Hwy. 64 and has never been in violation of the Highway Beautification Act. Nonetheless, by the time he renews his license in 2013, he needs to have a fence.

"I'm not sure I want to even spend that kind of money to stay in business," he lamented. "The county, obviously, doesn't appreciate what I do for them. I am 60 years old and it seems like I'm beating myself up. I still put in 14-hour days and it's not like we're getting wealthy. It almost makes me want to call it done by 2013."

When the county first approved ordinance 72, Overturf figured it would grandfather A-1 Auto Salvage. He has owned the large facility - 54-acres with 1,000 to 1,200 vehicles processed per year - since Feb. 1, 1983 and made numerous improvements, including additional acres and a shop to install parts. A-1 Auto Salvage also employs 14, including his son Jason Overturf. County officials confirmed A-1 Auto Salvage must build the fence to be compliant.

Overturf has been vocal about the new rules. The local media interviewed him and he wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper (The Daily Times). He is also an ARA member and the northwest director of the New Mexico Certified Automotive Recyclers Association (NMCARA.com). Sandy Blalock, NMCARA managing director, said she is working with Overturf and the other NMCARA members in San Juan County.

"The statute will obviously cause some hardships for businesses, but I do not believe the intent was to force them out," she said. "I am on their side and have made it my life's mission to assist recyclers in New Mexico to sway the business advantage back in our court."

In the meantime, Overturf hired a lawyer to fight his requirements for the ordinance. The fees will easily cost more than $20,000, admitted Overturf, and the result might not be in his favor.

"The next thing you know, (an 8-foot fence) isn't good enough. What do we have to do next?" he exclaimed. "What are the requirements going to be next time?"

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