Scrap metal recycler may be forced to move

Mike Salo says Maple Ridge
Mike Salo says Maple Ridge's scrap metal bylaw that requires recyclers to store items for a week is putting him out of business.
— image credit: The News/Files

A Maple Ridge scrap metal dealer who ran afoul of a municipal bylaw will soon be closing his doors, although court proceedings against him have come to a halt.

A judge entered a stay of proceedings last week against Michael Salo of the Fraser Valley Metal Exchange and M. Salo and Sons Recycling Ltd., effectively tossing out charges under the district’s scrap metal bylaw for a lack of evidence.

Salo said he would have won if the allegations were tested at trial, but decided to accept a stay as a cheaper compromise. He has spent $10,000 on legal fees since the charges were laid in September.

“It allows the district to have a bit of a win,” said Salo, who has operated his business in Maple Ridge for 35 years.

The metal recycler was accused of having metal wire on site which did not match business records.

None of the metal in question was stolen. Salo said his mistake was one of bookkeeping.

Under the district’s bylaw, Fraser Valley Metal Exchange is expected to tag every piece of metal it gets, store it for seven days and report it to the local RCMP detachment in an email.

It becomes a problem when 40 truckloads come in. On a good day, his business will received 1,200 separate items.

“I can’t operate under the current bylaw,” Salo said, adding the requirements to keep metal on site for seven days is onerous.

“With the amount of material coming in, I’m unable to store it.”

Salo said he knows other scrap metal dealers in the region and maintains that none of them have taken on the tedious task of tagging and cataloguing all their scrap metal.

Most other municipalities have allowed the provincial Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act to supersede their bylaws – but not Maple Ridge.

The provincial act does not require scrap dealers to store metal for a week.

“They want me to tag and hold everything,” said Salo. “It’s pointless and senseless. Unless we can come to an agreement with the district, I’m going to have to shut down.”

Salo wants to discuss the issue with council, but isn’t optimistic about a positive outcome as his previous complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

“This isn’t over,” he said.

With the business up for sale, Salo plans on laying off four full-time staff and another four sub-contractors.

He plans on running the metal exchange by himself until he finds a buyer and can hopefully move to another, more accommodating municipality.

“It might be easier to move to Mission or Pitt Meadows,” Salo said.

The District of Maple Ridge won’t say how much taxpayers’ money has been spent on taking Salo to court and confirmed that staff won’t stop enforcing the bylaw.

The scrap metal bylaw has fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, but only one other business beside Salo’s has been penalized under it.

When contacted Tuesday, Director of licences, permits and bylaws Liz Holitzki had not yet learned about the stay of proceedings against Salo’s business, but said there are no plans on changing the district’s bylaw to accommodate him.

“Our bylaw isn’t any different from the other ones in the Lower Mainland,” added Holitzki.

“We have a couple of other scrap dealers in Maple Ridge and they seem to be able to comply.”

In 2012, however, the City of Richmond severed its bylaw after the provincial act was put in place. The City of Abbotsford, meanwhile, only requires information about the seller and metal purchased and says nothing about storing it for seven days.

Holitzki said the district bylaw was put in place in 2011 to curb the trade in stolen metal. The requirement to hold onto items for a week is necessary to allow police the time to determine if the metal was stolen.

“If they get rid of it, the police don’t have the opportunity to look into it,” said Holitzki.


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