WILKES-BARRE – A Luzerne County judge on Monday ruled a West Wyoming hauling company must stop business after the borough said it was operating illegally and creating bothersome smells and loud noises.
Judge Michael Vough, in a two-page order, ruled Russell’s Hauling must “cease and desist” operations “until further order of court.”
On July 23, the borough, through its solicitor, Linell Lukesh, of Philadelphia, filed a request in Luzerne County Court for a special injunction against Russell’s Hauling Co., owned by borough resident Joseph Russell. The petition seeks to order a “cease and desist” of the company’s operations until a county zoning hearing is addressed because neighbors who live nearby say they are unable to enjoy their properties.
Between April 2012 and the present, the court filing states, nearby property owners have experienced “detrimental living conditions” due to noise, smells, smoke and other violations coming from the business.
The hauling company has not obtained the proper licensing or zoning to operate, Lukesh said at a hearing last week.
Joseph Russell has said the closure of his business would put him and his workers’ families out of work, and he said he will fight for “what’s right.”
Russell, who has 10 children and one on the way, said Monday he has no violations from any state agency and was disappointed with Vough’s ruling.
At last week’s hearing, Russell testified that both the state Department of Environmental Protection and OSHA have been to his Apollo Drive business and no violations were filed.
Russell did say he was cited at the district judge level on allegations of violating borough ordinances, including for open burning, and ordered to pay fines.
Cynthia Kennelly and Charles Umphred, who live near Russell’s Hauling on Ferretti Drive, have made a number of complaints about the business, including 911 calls.
“None of our intentions are to put Mr. Russell out of business,” Kennelly said. “He has the ability to have a successful business and find a proper location and do it legally. West Wyoming is not the place.”
In September 2012, Russell’s Hauling applied to the county Zoning Hearing Board for a special exception to operate a multiuse recycling and junkyard at the business. That request was later denied, and Russell appealed that decision. The appeal is pending and no hearing date has yet been scheduled.
If the zoning is approved, Russell would then have to apply for a license to operate a junkyard in the borough, which would be subject to borough council’s approval.
Russell’s attorney, Matthew Herbert, did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.
Borough Councilwoman Eileen Cipriani, who testified at last week’s hearing, said Monday the borough is pleased with Vough’s ruling.
“It was a contentious situation with disruptions to the whole community,” Cipriani said.