Detroit officials affirmed Monday that a developer cannot crush concrete in Core City.
Detroit’s Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously upheld a prior ruling that developer Murray Wikol cannot establish a concrete crushing operation at 4445 Lawton Street across from residents and near farms. In 2022, Wikol, chief executive officer of Can-Am International, proposed to crush concrete at the site, a move that would have brought an additional 50 trucks per day to the neighborhood and 32-foot-tall mounds of dirt and concrete. The plan was swiftly met with opposition from residents worried that the dust and noise pollution from the operation would cause a number of issues for their health as well as for nearby farms and gardens.
Wikol needed a permit from Detroit’s Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED), which was denied in December for several reasons including that it didn’t fit with the city’s land use plans. In January, Wikol appealed and a hearing was scheduled for February. Wikol requested a postponement and the hearing was rescheduled for July 17.
A few days ago, an attorney representing Wikol requested another delay until an April lawsuit filed by the city against Wikol is resolved.
The city sued Wikol after issuing him 57 blight tickets between 2022 and February 2023 for a total of $44,950. Despite Wikol’s permit request being denied in December, he has continued to use the site illegally to store large mounds of concrete and debris. Wikol has accumulated 120 tickets and $151,650 in fines at the site since 2022, according to data provided Monday by BSEED.
Officials noted Monday that Wikol had asked three times to postpone the hearing. Daniel Arking, an attorney for the city, additionally noted that the appeal is based solely on BSEED’s December decision and does not have anything to do with any other ongoing litigation.
No one was present Monday to represent Wikol or Can-Am, which one zoning board member described as “disrespectful.” Wikol has previously said the project will help recycle all of the old concrete in Detroit, and be used to rebuild roads. Wikol did not return a request for comment.
The hearing was held at the Erma L.Henderson Auditorium in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, and on Zoom. Multiple board members of the six present commended residents for showing up in numbers to fight the project and fight for their community.
“It’s absolutely phenomenal,” said board member Elois Moore. “Give yourselves a hand, you have my permission,” she said, to laughter from the crowd that was earlier told to stop cheering.
More than 30 residents spoke in opposition of the project Monday morning; no one spoke in support. Roughly 120 people attended the hearing online and 25 in person.
Longtime Core City resident Chrystal Ridgeway told BridgeDetroit Monday that the win is great, but she and her neighbors are going to keep fighting. There’s a possibility the case could now go to the Third Circuit Court and residents believe Wikol is still illegally using the site. The city’s April lawsuit noted that, “The subject property remains blighted, illegally occupied, unsafe and/or dangerous as a public nuisance and danger to the safety and welfare of the public.”
Ridgeway said, “We’re going to fight, we’re going to keep fighting. Can-Am – they are operating now, they are operating as we speak. There is no water, there is no nothing to mitigate the dust of these trucks coming through, you smell the diesel fuel, they’re on our roads,” she said.
Arking expressed regret Monday that Wikol did not attend the appeal hearing that he requested.
“Just wanted to state to the board, for the record, that this appeal again was initiated by the appellant, not the city, and nothing in this case involves any action by the city against the appellant in this case,” Arking said during the hearing. “So every step over the past seven months of this, as this case has unfolded, has been as the appellants initiation, or urging.”