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Published: Wednesday, 4/11/2007

Monroe residents protest scrap yard

BY BENJAMIN
ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sarah Nash, and other Monroe residents express their opposition to the scrap yard proposed for their city. Monroe council voted last week to rezone a site to accommodate such a facility. Sarah Nash, and other Monroe residents express their opposition to the scrap yard proposed for their city. Monroe council voted last week to rezone a site to accommodate such a facility.
THE BLADE/ALLAN DETRICH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

MONROE - City residents are protesting a proposal to place a scrap yard in the middle of their neighborhood.

Parents said they are worried about the dust and traffic and how it will affect their children's health and their morning walk to school.

Monroe's planning department said the development does not fit the city's planning vision. And four of the city's seven councilmen last week voted against it.

Residents have rallied in front of city hall with signs declaring "No Scrap Yard is a Good Scrap Yard" and have distributed petitions, garnering more than 500 signatures.

Despite the opposition, the development seems on its way to fruition.

Last week, the council voted 4-3 to rezone the land on East 3rd Street, between East Chester and Railroad streets, from heavy industrial to light industrial, which would have prevented the scrap yard's development.

But Pat Lewis, director of the city's planning and engineering department, said the council needed at least a two-thirds majority, or a 5-2 vote, to approve the rezoning.

"The wrinkle in the whole mess is that [Frank DeNardo], owner of the potential scrap yard, has protested the rezoning back to light industrial, so according to state law the council needed a two-thirds majority for approval of the downzoning,"

Mr. Lewis said.

So despite the majority vote, it was shy of the supermajority needed. The heavy industrial designation therefore remains.

The proposed site is between two train tracks, in the middle of the "Orchard neighborhood," on Monroe's east side, in the middle of a predominantly minority and low-income community.

The development is being proposed by Monroe Transfer LLC, managed by Mr. DeNardo, who also runs Hog Brothers Recycling LLC in Detroit.

Jeff Potts, who lives in a Habitat for Humanity home right next to the proposed scrap yard, worries about his 5-year-old son, Austin, who will start kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School this fall.

City councilman John R. Martin, who cast one of the three votes against the rezoning, said he thinks the proposed scrap yard's benefits outweigh residents' concerns.

Mr. Martin said the parcel is perfectly suited for heavy industrial. "What would happen to that piece of property otherwise? There is nothing that can be used there other than heavy industrial," he said.

In terms of the noise, dust, and smells the development may bring, Mr. Martin said the city council will continue to monitor the company to make sure it does not make any missteps.

Resident Anthony Grant said such a development wouldn't be allowed in wealthier, predominantly white neighborhoods.

Mr. Grant said he is worried about how this will affect the children's quality of life, which he says is already unduly burdened.

"They seem to think this black and low-income community is the only place to put it," Mr. Grant said. "Kids in our black community will have to walk by there everyday."

Mr. Lewis said the city did rezone the property from heavy industrial to light industrial in 2004.

But in December of 2006, he said, an error was made on the city's zoning maps, listing the parcel as heavy industrial.

"It was considered by the planning department to be an error in the map," Mr. Lewis said. "So in January, immediately after we caught it, we started on the process to correct the error, to rezone it back to light industrial."

But now, after last week's vote, the heavy industrial zoning will likely remain.

Mr. Potts said he is working with the River Raisin Institute in Monroe, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve the health of communities, and the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental organization in Ann Arbor, Mich., to try and stop it.



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