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Site of proposed Detroit concrete crusher at center of "nuisance" lawsuit

Core City residents with a "gift" for Mayor Mike Duggan opposing the proposed concrete crushing operation in their neighborhood.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Core City residents with a "gift" for Mayor Mike Duggan opposing the proposed concrete crushing operation in their neighborhood.

Residents of Detroit’s Core City neighborhood have banded together to fight off a controversial proposed concrete-crushing facility.

Now, the city says the property where the project is planned is a public nuisance.

The city has filed a lawsuit calling the site “blighted, illegally occupied, unsafe and/or dangerous as a public nuisance and danger to the safety and welfare of the public.” It seeks a court ruling for the defendant-owners to clean up the property at their own expense, or risk having the city do it for them—and possibly seizing the property.

The lawsuit comes as the battle over the proposed concrete crusher continues. Following an opposition campaign launched by Core City residents and supported by a number of elected officials,the city rejectedproperty owner Murray Wikol’s application for a permit. Wikol is appealing that ruling to Detroit’s zoning appeals board.

Core City resident Vanessa Butterworth hopes the nuisance lawsuit sets a precedent for future industrial development projects in the city, and cases of what she calls “environmental racism.”

“The city of Detroit is now putting their foot down and saying no one is above the law in our city, and we're going to work to protect our black and low-income residents as much as we can,” Butterworth said.

Butterworth added that residents believe property owner Wikol is untrustworthy. “Quite frankly, we have a bad actor who owns property in our neighborhood, and he's proven time and time again that he's unwilling to work with us,” she said.

But Wikol insists that illegal dumpers have targeted the property. “We’ve basically cleaned up over 5,000 tons of illegally-dumped material,” said Wikol. The property is secured by a fence and what Wikol calls “high-tech monitoring.”

Wikol said he’s willing and hopeful that he can work out a deal with the city, both over the lawsuit and the concrete crusher proposal. But he said in the meantime, the city is targeting the wrong people.

“Rather than communicating with us, they have filed a lawsuit,” Wikol said. “We just don’t think that’s good for business and the way to treat anyone who has cleaned up criminal activity. We think the city should focus on catching the criminals rather than pursuing the landowner-operator.”

Wikol said he’s had trouble communicating with Mayor Mike Duggan’s office, and suggested that he’s open to selling the site to the city or the Detroit land bank, or swapping it for another property. “I think we can work something out in less than an hour,” he said.

Duggan is on record as opposing the concrete crusher. In a February letter to Detroit’s board of zoning appeals, he wrote: “There is no doubt that the proposed use would pose an adverse public health, noise, and safety hazard for local residents…the proposed use would lack the correct screening to shield residents, aggravate pre-existing conditions in the neighborhood, and overexpose vulnerable populations to harmful emissions.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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