Duggan issues moratorium on scrap yards in Detroit

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
Black smoke rises above a pile of junked vehicles as Detroit firefighters battle a blaze at a scrapyard on Detroit's east side.

Detroit — Due to a rapid increase in used auto and scrap yards, the city will halt accepting applications for one year from those wanting to start or expand these types of businesses.

Mayor Mike Duggan signed an executive order Wednesday that will create a moratorium that will go into effect from April 1 to March 31, 2020. City officials say they will use that time to review and update zoning and ordinances in an effort to limit over concentration, curb illegal operations and decrease crime.

The types of businesses affected by the moratorium are: used tire storage and sales, used auto sales, scrap iron and metal processors, junk dealers, auto dismantling and wrecking and major and minor auto repair.

Regulating these businesses has been a challenge, Duggan wrote in his directive.

“Many businesses are currently operating without benefit of a permit, a certificate of compliance or a business license,” Duggan wrote. “Once permitted, some of these uses have illegally intensified the services offered, such as presenting more used cars for sale than allowed, or providing more intense vehicle repair activities than allowed.

"At the same time, such uses that have been abandoned can leave vacant, blighted buildings and contaminated land on commercial corridors. Finally, these uses can present deleterious effects on neighboring residential districts, resulting in excessive blight, traffic, noise, crime and environmental concerns requiring excessive enforcement resources due to more frequent neighborhood complaints and aesthetic issues.”

The city estimates there are 1,500 businesses known to the city that are operating at varying levels of compliance. That figure may be twice as much based on conversation the city has had with the state, said Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia. He figures the draw for such businesses is the availability of land in the city. 

"They're multiplying like rabbits," he said "That’s really the crisis."

Garcia said the city doesn't yet have what the ideal figure would be. 

"The city is very business friendly and in favor of development," he said. "What we’re not in favor of is having something become predominant. A moratorium will give us time to figure out what is the right number.”

Businesses not in compliance when the moratorium begins April 1 will face closure and will not be able to reapply until after it's lifted. Operators with legally established businesses will be able to renew their business licenses and obtain certificates of compliance.

“In light of the expansion of these types of businesses, we need to make sure we can effectively regulate them so they do not negatively impact our neighborhoods,” said David Bell, director of the Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department.

“We are giving the operators of all existing businesses of these types 90 days to come into compliance before the moratorium begins. Existing businesses that are operating legally but may be out of compliance will have the opportunity to enter into a consent agreement with the city to establish a firm timeline for getting into compliance.”

The department says it will send letters to all known businesses making them aware of the moratorium.  

City departments that will review the city's existing auto-related regulations are BSEED, the city’s law department, planning commission and the department of neighborhoods. Those departments will then make or recommend to City Council any necessary changes, officials said.


Twitter: @CWilliams_DN