By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – City officials last week approved an agreement with owners of the former McLouth Steel property that should pave the way for renewed use of the site and avoid legal challenges that would likely stall progress.
City Administrator Jim Wagner said the agreement between Trenton and Detroit Steel Co., owners of the 276-acre industrial site, may represent a turning point in what has been a longstanding concern.
“This is a step for us to start working together,” Wagner said of the understanding.
“This is a little broader than the resolution of 2005, and gives the DSC the opportunity to grow a little.”
The complex has sat mostly unused since McLouth Steel’s 1996 bankruptcy.
Proposals since then have failed to make full use of the site, and efforts in recent years to negotiate with Trenton Land Holdings – the development arm of DSC – fell short of agreement as to what materials could be stored there.
Detroit Steel had previously requested that the storage buildings be used as storage for manufacturers transporting materials. City officials and residents had opposed earlier proposals that, under some definitions, allow the temporary storage of hazardous materials.
Progress stalled further last year when city officials said Detroit Steel had begun early development work on the site without having obtained the proper permits, and in December the city filed a motion in Wayne County Circuit Court seeking court-ordered compliance with the terms of a prior agreement.
Wagner said last week’s resolution resulted from a court-ordered settlement reached via a facilitator and attorneys from both sides, and marked a turning point in negotiations.
“What happened was the lines of communication had deteriorated,” Wagner said. “We now have lines of communication. For the first time in a number of years we’re getting the right process moving.”
The agreement allows certain uses by DSC on site, including manufacturing and importing and exporting a variety of materials and machinery, while ensuring compliance with city standards and permit processes. The storage or handling of hazardous materials is prohibited under the agreement.
“It opened a lot of eyes on both sides that we can work together,” Wagner said.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)