Detroit rescinds approval of Grosse Pointe DPW site

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Grosse Pointe is evaluating its next steps after “errors” caused Detroit to rescind a deal that would have allowed it to house Department of Public Works operations at an east side warehouse.

Grosse Pointe City Manager Peter Dame said officials got notice on Friday that Detroit’s Building Safety Engineering and Environmental Department was overturning a fall decision that would have allowed Grosse Pointe to renovate the facility at 4849 Canyon in Detroit.

The space, Dame said, was slated to be used for indoor storage of stone, dirt and salt materials for road work as well as Grosse Pointe’s fleet of front-end loaders, tractors, dump trucks and garbage trucks. The city of about 5,000 has been looking for a larger space for its public works operations since 2001.

In a two-page analysis of the approval requested by Detroit’s building department, Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia noted Grosse Pointe’s application gave no indication that it planned to store sanitation equipment on the property nor did not request the authority to do so. Such a move, the legal opinion adds, would violate city zoning laws.

Separately, Garcia wrote, based on concerns raised by the community, the law department reviewed notices sent out by the building department in October that revealed only about half of the 40 residents within 300 feet of the warehouse were informed of a public hearing related to the request.

The conditional approval was reversed by the city’s law department not long after a local news article was published in mid-January detailing Grosse Pointe City Council’s December approval of the move.

Grosse Pointe residents who turned up at the meeting carried signs featuring rats and cheese to protest the possibility of the DPW facility remaining in their neighborhood, saying the presence of garbage trucks, previously stored there outdoors, had led to rodent issues.

The existing building, which is located on Maumee Avenue, is more than 50 years old and only 5,000 square feet. But Grosse Pointe says it needs about 30,000 square feet.

Dame contends the comments “inflamed the community in Detroit,” over the assumption Grosse Pointe was attempting to move its problems to Detroit, sparking an outcry from some east side neighborhoods.

But Dame stressed Grosse Pointe never sought to dump or hold trash at the site or use it as a sanitation facility. Grosse Pointe, he said, is committed to working with Detroit and its residents “to resolve any issues of concern.”

“This whole issue about rats is just a non-existent issue. That’s the issue that basically inflamed the community in Detroit, and rightly so if it were true,” said Dame, who claims concerns over rodents were cleared up with policy changes years ago.

Grosse Pointe voters in August narrowly approved up to $12.69 million in bonds to replace the city’s public safety and services facilities.

The city intended to issue up to $4.7 million for the purchase, renovation and reconstruction of the warehouse off Mack Avenue behind the Village Hardware owned by St. John Hospital and Medical Center.

Dame contends Grosse Pointe followed all the proper processes and kept Detroit fully informed. The plan, he said, would improve the building and add green space in the commercial district for the benefit of both communities.

“We did everything openly,” he said. “We’re not sure what our options are now.”