For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Name: Paul Frost Title Chairperson
Email address: Paulfrost@downriverwc.com
Mail: 2210 Ruskin St. Trenton MI 48183
Downriver Waterfront Conservancy advocates for action
Redevelopment of industrial waterfront will continue to be challenging in the Downriver area, the DRWC wants to change that.
Trenton, MI September 10, 2020.The zoning and the redevelopment of the defunct McLouth steel site, now owned by MSC Land/Crown, is one of the most talked about properties in the last decade downriver. When you talk with people about what has happened with the site in the past three or four years, you get as many opinions as there are people.
The one thing that just about everyone agrees on, is that having buildings come down on the site, is the best thing to happen on the property in the past twenty years. However, when you ask what kind of redevelopment should go on the property, this is where consensus ends. Some people want parks with public access, and some want condos with offices, shops, restaurants. Some just want good paying jobs and an employer that contributes to the city’s declining tax base. We all have the best interest of our community at heart.
Let us talk about how we got to where we are today. The site was a working steel mill some twenty plus years ago bringing good jobs and a strong tax base to support city services and a well-regarded school system until the day it closed. The bad news is that it brought blight, pollution and contamination that typically accompanied heavy industrial uses of that era. The site was owned by several companies after the McLouth Steel closing, and all tried to reuse the facility in various ways.
There was even a plan for a mixed-use development which included offices, condos, and inland marina but unfortunately, developers were not able to get the project off the ground due to environmental and economic challanges. The owners of the property just prior to MSC attempted several business ventures and even tried to sell the property but were unsuccessful. This caused taxes to the City of Trenton and Wayne County not to be paid eventually resulting in the property being taken over for back taxes by Wayne County approximately three years ago.
Following the tax foreclosure, both the city of Trenton and the State of Michigan were offered to purchase the property for the back taxes owed and both declined to do so for several reasons including but not limited to the known and unknown pollution on the site. Wayne County put the property in its land bank and put out a request for proposals to purchase and redevelop the site. A handful of proposals were submitted and the plan from MSC/Crown was selected as the most viable option. To proceed with the sale, the County asked for and received a resolution signed by all council members, showing unanimous approval that put their stamp of approval on the agreement with MSC.
The agreement to sell the property included several key contractual provisions that established how the site was to be cleaned up, specific uses and nonpermitted uses by MSC. The site was also approved by the federal government to designate it as a Super Fund sites and added to the National Priority List (NPL) so that future federal funds might be allocated to do additional clean-up following an extensive EPA study.
Most people do not realize this site is made up of more than one lot and that it has multiple zonings in two cities, Trenton, and Riverview. The Riverview property is zoned industrial. The Trenton site which has primarily two lots, one zoned I-3 heavy industrial, and the other mixed-use. The current mixed-use lot was rezoned from I-3 to accommodate the developer, mentioned above, who wanted to put offices, condos and a marina on the site more than a decade ago. Unfortunately, no one has come forward since that time to take advantage of that zoning change. Until the site is remediated, (the heavy pollution has been cleaned up), neutralized or encapsulated, opportunities for redevelopment will be restricted and limited in scope.
Prior to the time of foreclosure of the property by Wayne County, the city of Trenton Planning Commission had begun the process of a city-wide review of its Zoning Ordinance. This process is done routinely by cities primarily to keep their ordinances up to date with current law. One of the major changes to the proposed ordinance, was to rezone several properties that were being used for industrial purposes. This would encourage new, less intensive uses under a new zoning designation called Industrial Waterfront. Some of the most notable sites affected by this proposed change would be the MSC Land/Crown site, the DTE power plant site, and the Eastman chemical sites along the river.
In summary, prior to the completion of the zoning ordinance the Trenton City Council signed a document supporting the sale and terms of the agreement to sell the property to MSC Land. Subsequently, property was sold by Wayne County to MSC Land/Crown knowing that MSC would be responsible for some cleanup on the site and that they planned to use it for industrial purposes. The planning commission recently recommended adoption of a revised Zoning Ordinance to Council that would change the zoning on the entire property in Trenton to I-W, (Industrial Waterfront).
So, where does the DownRiver Waterfront Conservancy stand on this issue? Well, probably the best way to articulate our goal is to share our mission statement.
“The DownRiver Waterfront Conservancy works to bring together business, community, and environmental interests to support sustainable economic development on our waterfront.”
If you asked, would DRWC support a project that creates new jobs, additional taxes and would cleanup a heavily contaminated site, the answer is yes. Would we prefer that it not be used for industrial purposes? Of course we would. Unfortunately, from where we sit, the die has largely been cast regarding the MSC site. It appears to us that some sort of industrial use of the property is inevitable. We feel that the proposed ordinance significantly regulates the types of permitted uses of the property and we support that. We also hope that the community could work collaboratively with MSC to make the use of this site good for all concerned.
On a long-term basis, we would like to see access to other riverfront properties for all people with a blend of commercial uses that can help provide tax revenue and a clean environment for our children and grandchildren. This has been undertaken in other communities in Michigan and we can learn much from them as to how to go about getting local, state, federal and private support to achieve these goals.
As a sidebar, we would like to point out that we have two additional sites on our waterfront zoned I-3 (DTE and Eastman/Solutia) that are ripe for 9/ redevelopment. These sites appear to be good candidates of future development to something other than heavy industrial. We must start now toward that goal if we have any hope of a desirable outcome. Delay and inaction can only invite a similar outcome for these properties as has occurred with the old McLouth Steel property and Riverside Hospital site.
Our goal is to bring together diverse interests toward the common goal of creating a better economic, environmental, and sustainable future for all Downriver.
About the DRWC The DownRiver Waterfront Conservancy is a non-profit organization formed by a group of concerned downriver residences, to help bring about sustainable economic redevelopment of our waterfront. Our goal is to create awareness and facilitate proactive conversation in order to create positive outcomes and desirable development on our waterfront.
DRWC| 2210 Ruskin St. Trenton MI 48183 | 734-558-8081 | Paulfrost@downriverwc.com |