Organizers collected more than 1,600 signatures opposing the proposed asphalt plant project. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

Nearly 50 residents cheered in an auditorium Tuesday at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center after the Board of Zoning Appeals upheld a City decision to block the construction of an asphalt plant in North Rosedale Park. 

“It’s very important that we avoid any additional pollution in the area,” said Rosedale Park resident Wanda Edwards, who is concerned that residents already deal with a waste management facility, a Department of Public Works yard and the I-96 freeway. 

“We have to stand up for safe air in our environment, and also for our property values,” she added. 

The proposal was originally submitted by Pontiac-based company Asphalt Specialists, Inc. last year, but was denied by the city’s Detroit’s Building Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) in November. In response, Asphalt Specialists, Inc. filed an appeal with the Board of Zoning Appeals, claiming that BSEED didn’t conduct a proper evaluation of the project and may have misunderstood the company’s mission. 

However, the zoning board upheld BSEED’s decision, citing that BSEED executed the evaluation properly. 

BSEED’s original decision to deny the proposal was made after recommendations from several city departments and robust community opposition. Organizers collected 200 signatures to oppose the proposal at the November hearing. Since last year, resistance to the asphalt project has continued to grow and more than 1,600 people have signed petitions. 

At Tuesday’s hearing, residents – holding signs demanding clean air – had to be told multiple times to hold their applause in strong opposition to the project. Nearly 100 residents were in attendance in-person and online. All of the comments made by residents were in support of BSEED’s original decision to deny the proposal. 

At the presentation, Asphalt Specialists’ attorney Lawrence Walker attempted to offer additional information about the plant’s technology. 

“What it does not do is emit particulates or emissions into the air that are harmful to the public,” said Walker who doesn’t believe comparisons of harmful emissions data from other, older asphalt plants, are accurate.

But residents continued to be concerned about the potential environmental damage.

“I know everybody on our block is worried about the potential health impact for ourselves and for our children,” said Michael Malis, who lives in Rosedale Park where he’s raising his 18-month-old son with his wife.

“We live on an amazing block – there are eight other children under the age of three on our block, it’s full of young families, old people, young people, and it’s a really diverse community. It’s been a wonderful place to raise our son,” he said. 

“This board needs to consider what type of investment they’d like to prioritize, if they’d like to prioritize an environmental disaster or if they’d like to prioritize investment from young families.” 

The asphalt plant would have been located 800 feet from some residents, which is allowed under current ordinances. But Jayda Philson, a manager for BSEED, pointed out that marijuana facilities are required to be located 1,000 feet away from homes, due to the associated fumes and odors. 

“This asphalt mixing plant is not even 1,000 feet away from residential parcels,” she said. “I find that very disturbing.” 

Resident Darrly Brown suffers from asthma and has seen the widespread impact of asthma in his work as a children’s karate instructor. Brown, who is a former Detroit police commissioner, told BridgeDetroit he felt great about the ruling, naming a number of reasons he’s against it, including the noise pollution and heavy truck traffic the project would bring to the community. Some estimates say the asphalt plant would have added more than 100 additional trucks a day to the neighborhood. 

“One of the things we had to do is protect ourselves from this environmental racism that’s going on here,” he said. 

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Jena is a BridgeDetroit's environmental reporter, covering everything from food and agricultural to pollution to climate change.

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Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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1 Comment

  1. I’m glad the community scored wins within the city and the board of zoning appeals. Protecting community health has repeatedly been shown to be a low priority for many businesses. For the business profit is the concern – not being a good neighbor.

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