Pontiac-based asphalt company fails to overturn Detroit project denial

Detroit zoning officials have rejected a Pontiac company’s appeal to allow construction of an asphalt mixing facility in northwest Detroit.

The city’s Department of Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environment rejected Asphalt Specialists Inc.’s proposal in November to build a 25-acre facility at 12155 Southfield Freeway, an area south of Interstate 96 near Borman Road which is zoned for heavy industrial use. Company attorney Lawrence Walker attempted on Tuesday to overturn the decision, but the Zoning Appeals Board voted unanimously to uphold the decision.

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Walker told the board that the Detroit Building Department and Industrial Review Board — an advisory committee of the building department and the council that reviews, recommends and investigates various components of the project — had to study several aspects such as environmental impacts and reviews of the proposed machines.

“There are no such reports relating to the Industrial Review Board and we know that because we asked for them,” Walker said. “They didn’t do any investigation.”

Walker, who requested documents about the investigation, said that according to a response letter from the building department, city ​​officials did not provide anything in writing. The industry review board “relies only on information submitted by the customer,” Walker read in the response letter.

“Well, that’s not true. The Industrial Review Board is obligated to investigate not just to inform you, to inform the city and not just to rely on what my client provides to them,” Walker said. , adding that city officials should have done so. further evaluation of the project.

However, officials said the project did not align with the city’s master plan, which guides projects in the community. Municipal planner Helen Sharpley said the Planning and Development Department recommended the refusal to the Building Department in November.

“The zoning ordinance permits more intensive use than the master plan recommends. The current master plan designation is IL, or light industrial, which includes areas that generally consist of low-intensity industrial uses that have minimal adverse effects on adjacent residences or businesses land uses,” said Sharpley.

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Opponents of the project have in the past confused what would be a mixing facility with an asphalt plant or manufacturer, which would involve more intense heating operations that would release particulates, according to Walker. The proposed facility would instead have asphalt mixed and stockpiled for delivery to job sites.

The project proposal detailed the process: cold feed bins would be loaded from on-site aggregate stockpiles, then fed into a drying drum using a conveyor.

The drying drum would have a natural gas burner at one end to dry the aggregate and rotate to mix the components to form the asphalt, according to the proposal. The air from the drum would then be exhausted to a bag filter, passing through filters, where over 99.9% of the particles would be removed.

The filtered air would then exit “a chimney more than 50 feet high” and the captured particles would be recycled back into the drum, according to the proposal. Once mixed, the asphalt would then be sent by conveyor to silos for storage.

The unloading areas for the trucks to receive and ship the asphalt would have been under the silos. The area would have been “enclosed and ducted” to mitigate odors, the proposal states.

However, operations such as the gas burner and the proximity of high truck traffic to residents, especially with health conditions, were of concern to Nick Schroeck, associate dean at the University of Detroit Mercy and an expert in human rights law. environment.

“There will be emissions even if they try to control them with the bag filter. Then there will also be fugitive emissions when loading onto trucks. They try to contain some of that smell, but there would be leaks, odors and fugitive emissions that could be potentially harmful,” Schroeck said. “Over time you get higher exposure and that increases your risk of health consequences.”

Dozens of people opposed the project on Tuesday in public comments before the zoning appeal board and urged officials to uphold the city’s decision. Former Detroit Police Commissioner Darryl Brown has taken aim at the company for doing “whatever it wants” in the community.

“Join us in saying, ‘No to air pollution, no to groundwater contamination, no to noise pollution. … Save our lungs, save a tree and protect our children,” Brown said.

Several others cited concerns about pollutants invading the air. But Walker questioned the evidence of harmful emissions.

“I’ve heard a lot of ‘We don’t want them because they’re polluters.’ But where is the proof of that? There’s no proof. No one said we had documented evidence that he’s a polluter or that he will pollute,” Walker said. “There are no harmful emissions.”

The Board of Zoning Appeals was scheduled to hear ASI’s appeal on February 15, but adjourned the meeting after it failed to provide proper notice of the details of the hearing. Before the February meeting, dozens of activists held a press conference urging the council to uphold the city’s decision due to environmental concerns, despite the developer promising jobs such as engineers, managers and drivers.

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.

Barbara M. Stokes