By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — Concerns about one of the city’s long-unresolved issues will likely factor in a revised proposal for use of the 276-acre Detroit (McLouth) Steel property.
Prospects — and opinions — were aired Monday when representatives of the Detroit Steel Co. appeared before City Council with plans to expand on the limited operations at the property.
Attempts to revitalize the long-dormant plant have been made with several proposals over the years, yet no significant development has been approved since the company’s 1996 bankruptcy. Earlier this year the city applied for and obtained an Environmental Protection Agency site assessment to benefit developer consideration, an effort supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Wayne County and Detroit Chamber of Commerce.
Following several months of meetings with the city — and a rezoning rezoning request that was rejected in June — property owner Mark Wilkinson last week presented a plan to turn the site into a “transportation hub,” a storage and shipping point making use of the docks, rail lines and roads.
The proposal raised concerns among both elected officials and residents. City Administrator Jim Wagner said council members had a number of issues with the proposal, and residents worried that petroleum coke might be among the products stored at the facility.
Detroit Steel representatives stressed last week that they had no intention of allowing the controversial petroleum byproduct, nor would other hazardous materials. Residents and council members indicated that portions of the company’s proposal were vague enough to allow for that potential.
Either way, Wagner said, there were strong opinions for and against the proposal.
“There are those who would like to resolve it and help them out,” Wagner said. “And others say that 14 years is long enough.”
Pet coke fears aside, Wagner said there had been many issues involved even before this summer’s attempt to rezone the property for more than just industrial use. Currently the company has three tenants which store aluminum ingots and empty tanks at the complex.
“If zoning were the only issue we’d be fine,” Wagner said. “But there’s zoning, environmental, railroads; there’s 12 or 14 things to consider. It’s not just one issue.”
Wagner said the company has shown considerable interest this year, and he expects it will have addressed many of the concerns raised when a revised proposal is put before council at its regular meeting on Oct. 8.
“One way or another I expect City Council will make a decision then,” Wagner said. “Both sides are looking for a resolution.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])