Case Study: Detroit as A Dumping Ground for Suburban Trash
On November 3, 2017 Detroit’s Building Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) approved, with conditions, the City of Grosse Pointe establishing a Warehouse and Storage Facility in an existing Detroit building located next to a McDonald’s and adjacent to Balduck Park. The public notice sent to residents in Detroit indicated that the building would be a warehouse and storage facility. It was actually to store materials and service vehicles, and for office use for the City of Grosse Pointe Department of Public Works. Grosse Pointe residents voiced concerns that the public works site near their homes would negatively impact property values and aesthetics. Grosse Pointers also believed the City leaders sold bonds to voters on the basis of moving the DPW to the Detroit property. The differing understanding between Grosse Pointe and Detroit residents created frustration, tension, and a feeling of poor representation for Detroit residents. Additionally, the lack of clarity in the public notice led Detroit residents to believe they were not properly informed to react or respond to the proposal.
(Referencing the Detroit property) “The thought was we could really transform the area”Nick Sizeland, Grosse Pointe City Manager
Once more information was provided about the project, the community started asking questions. An informational meeting was organized by City Councilman Andre Spivey, along with the City of Grosse Pointe.
Through the informational meeting and other responses to inquiries, it was confirmed that the storage would be for Grosse Pointe Garbage Trucks.
Grosse Pointe needed a variance, which is a change from the set of rules Detroit applies to land use and land development. A public hearing with the Board of Zoning Appeals is required to grant or decline any variance request. Many community members organized to oppose this ‘development’ that proposed to move garbage into their neighborhood.
“We determined it had been a long time since any significant investment had been made in that block. It’s a good long-term project for the city [of Detroit].”-Mayor Robert Denner, Grosse Pointe
- For the neighborhood to understand the scope of the project
- Complete transparency between the city of Detroit and Grosse Pointe
- Once project was identified, to stop the development
- The BSEED notice did not accurately describe the project.
- The City Councilman supported the project, because it was ‘development.’
- The City of Grosse Pointe presumed that the Department of Public Works’ project was not a problem but a benefit to Detroit since it was using vacant property.
How did the community build support?
The initiative was led by Cornerstone Village, East English Village, and Morningside communities. They went door to door with the BSEED notice and the City of Grosse Pointe’s Plan and asked people to participate in an informational meeting to learn more about the project.
Government Involvement for Resolution
On January 26, 2018 BSEED rescinded the conditional approval and the City of Grosse Pointe pulled their Board of Zoning Appeal (BZA) request.
Government Department/ Resources
- City Councilman Andre Spivey
- Mayor’s Office
- Michigan Environmental Action Council
Measurements of Community Success
- BSEED rescinded their decision to approve the development.
- BSEED acknowledgedacknowledging that their public notice did not provide an accurate description of the ‘development.’
Grosse Pointe City Council decided to tear down their existing City DPW and build a new, completely enclosed facility on the current site. Cornerstone Village, East English Village and Morningside communities have worked with five Grosse Pointes on their existing neighborhood and business improvement plans.
- The community needed access to information and support in order to organize their efforts. Who did they need to work with?
- What is local government’s role when communities organize around an issue?