Advocates urge Detroit to stand against concrete crushing development
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Advocates urge Detroit to stand against concrete crushing development

Apr 05, 2023

Advocates are urging Detroit officials to stand against a proposed concrete crushing facility in the Core City neighborhood that sits near a highway and residential properties.

The nearly 4.7-acre property at 4445 Lawton St. west of downtown is classified as a vacant industrial site, city records show. Developer Murray Wikol, CEO of ProVisions LLC, which lists some of the project information online, is proposing a "very high-impact manufacturing or processing facility" that involves crushing, grading and screening of rock, stone, slag, clay or concrete but residents are concerned about excess noise, dust and chemicals blanketing their homes and nearby agricultural operations.

Through a special land use hearing on Wednesday with the Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department, engineering consultant Dave Root said the main operations include receiving raw demolished concrete from various parts of the state, weighing and inspecting material before processing, then placing it in a raw stockpile until processed through an inspector. The raw material pile also has a maximum height of 32 feet, he said.

Due to the high-impact nature of the project, the buildings department will receive recommendations from other city departments. Once received, the director of the Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department will make a final decision, according to spokesperson Georgette Johnson.

"If either party doesn't agree with the decision, they have the right to appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals. These meetings are public and property owners within 300 feet of the facility are notified," Johnson said.

Vanessa Butterworth, who lives a few blocks away from the site, is heavily against the project due to the amount of dust that she fears may land onto residential properties and nearby farms. Butterworth is collecting petition signatures advocating against an intensive industrial site to deliver to City Councilmember Gabriela Santiago-Romero's office.

"There's houses directly across from this," Butterworth said. "Fifty trucks a day in this neighborhood will ruin this neighborhood. ... I look at that site every day, walk past that site every day."

Andy Chae, owner of Fisheye Farms off of Buchanan Street, told city officials the dust is concerning for his business. Chae has been operating the urban farm since 2017, serving food to more than 200 people.

"Not only the dust from the crushing operation, but the added truck traffic on top of the heavy equipment, the exhaust fumes from that could cause a problem for our food and also for all the families who live in our neighborhood," Chae said.

Andrew Roberts, who is trying to put together a micro nature preserve near the highway, told officials there is urban agriculture interest in the area on Buchanan Street to grow food.

"Dust is a major concern and I think this would be a very horrible mistake to move forward with this project," Roberts said.

Several advocates echoed similar sentiments, though one city employee supported the project.

John Prymack, director of the Public Lighting Department, said the site would be beneficial "as I dispose (of) many of my products all across the city."

"If I have an opportunity to have a crushing operation in the city of Detroit to take some of the product I have going to landfill, it would actually save the city money by using Mr. Vaughn's new location," Prymack said. "My disposal cost would be minimal."

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Vaughn Smith is the operator and said he has been crushing concrete for 30 years through Mid-Michigan Crushing and Recycling. In response to potential noise complaints, Smith said their crushers are more innovative and make less noise than they have in the past.

"You'll hear more of the highway noise or the backup alarms on the loaders pretty much before you'll hear the crushers. You might hear a grumbling noise or something like that occasionally but, honestly, the highway ... noise and the sound of the trains going by are way louder than what the crushing operation would be," Smith said.

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He added that the company has an air permit and is regulated by the Department of Environmental Quality.

"We're regulated very heavily," Smith said. "We've been doing this for 30 years. In that 30 years, we've had one violation, one violation and it was a very windy day."

City inspector Darrin Williams visited the property Monday and said it appeared crushing operations were already underway.

"There was numerous piles on-site of various materials such as concrete and asphalt and also there's a high amount of dirt that was located," Williams said. "We have had numerous enforcement issues ... in regards to the illegal use of his property."

The developer's attorney, Kristin Lusn, denied crushing operations are happening.

"We have not been doing any crushing and recycling activities on the property. I think the inspector insinuated that we had done some illegal use. That's from a prior occupant of the property. It was not the applicant," Lusn said.

Earlier this year, environmental advocates stood against a similar zoning matter when a developer proposed building an asphalt mixing facility in northwest Detroit. Advocates and nearby residents cited various health and air quality concerns and urged the city to deny the project.

Dana Afana is the Detroit city hall reporter for the Free Press. Contact Dana: [email protected] or 313-635-3491. Follow her on Twitter: @DanaAfana.

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