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Detroit to put moratorium on scrap, auto repair and some other businesses

A scrap yard
Detroit is cracking down on scrap yards and similar businesses in an effort to curb their growth in the city.

Detroit will put a moratorium on certain types of businesses as the city tries to deal with concerns over their proliferation throughout the city.

The businesses are scrap metal processors, junk dealers, auto repair shops, used auto sales, used tire storage and sales, and auto dismantling and wrecking operations. 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan issued an executive order Wednesday that puts a one-year moratorium on new facilities starting April 1. The order also gives existing operations 90 days to reach a deal with the city to come into compliance with existing regulations, or face closure.

Duggan also wants the city to use the moratorium as an opportunity to revamp those existing regulations, with an eye toward limiting these types of operations and where they can locate.

City of Detroit corporation counsel Lawrence Garcia says it’s not clear why these businesses seem to have flourished in the past couple of years. There are an estimated 1,500 across the city.

But Garcia says residents have been very vocal about their concerns surrounding these operations.

“It’s been hundreds that have popped up in the last year or two, where we’ve seen this really rapid growth that folks find so distressing,” he said.

Garcia compares the growth of these businesses to the rapid growth of medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit before the city moved to put restrictions on them.

“Folks from every community across Detroit came out last year and complained about the rapid proliferation or growth of these types of properties,” Garcia said. “This is something that’s on the tip of every neighborhood’s tongue when they complain about what they feel is wrong with the city of Detroit."

Garcia says some of these businesses are operating illegally, while others are doing things beyond what the city has authorized. Concerns range from debris or discharge that some auto repair and scrap operations leave off-premises, sometimes in neighborhood streets; to repair shops that also deal in scrap metal, raising concerns about associated crime.

Nonetheless, “the idea behind this is, to not so much try and close anybody down, but prevent new folks from coming into business who really shouldn’t be,” Garcia said, noting their growing numbers have "the potential to really change the character of the city. It will cause major disruption of traditional land use.”

The review of existing regulations will involve several city departments and the planning commission. It  “is designed to determine appropriate measures to limit overconcentration, increase compliance with property maintenance and zoning standards, decrease crime, and curtail illegal business operations,” according to a city news release.

Any changes to city ordinances need approval from the Detroit City Council.

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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