MONROE - Monroe County commissioners last night abandoned their plan to buy a public beach along the Lake Erie shoreline and instead consented to a land swap between the city of Monroe and local businessman Roger Homrich.
The proposed swap, if and when it occurs, would trade about 225 acres that Mr. Homrich owns adjacent to Sterling State Park for the 26-acre Otter Creek Access site in LaSalle Township and two other smaller parcels.
Mr. Homrich's property includes the former Jefferson Smurfit East Mill plant, which was built in 1910 on top of the original Frenchtown settlement.
More than 300 people were killed in January, 1813, at the site in what came to be called the River Raisin Massacre, one of the pivotal battles in the War of 1812.
City leaders covet Mr. Homrich's land as a way to reclaim the battlefield site and develop it to its fullest historical and tourism potential.
Just last week, during a third archeological excavation in the area, researchers uncovered the missing third wall of the ill-fated fort.
They also would like to use undeveloped wetlands within the property to tie the recently renovated Sterling State Park with the city's RiverWalk and its adjoining recreational areas and parks.
The city of Monroe received a $1.4 million grant in 2002 from the Clean Michigan Initiative to demolish the former paper mill, which closed its doors in 1995.
However, the state has not released those funds because the land swap had not been completed.
Mr. Homrich, who owns a demolition company, owns large tracts of land and a pair of lakefront homes adjacent to the Otter Creek site in LaSalle Township.
Monroe Mayor C.D. “Al” Cappuccilli said the land swap could be completed within the next month and ultimately would benefit the city and the county if the battlefield site is fully reclaimed and developed.
In other action last night, commissioners again postponed a plan to increase tipping fees for solid waste coming into the county's three landfills, including the BFI landfill near the state line in Erie Township.
County officials had proposed increasing fees five-fold, from 10 cents per cubic yard to 50 cents, to generate income from the approximately 80 percent of waste going in the landfills that is generated outside the county.