a sign that says no core city
Core City residents are celebrating the city’s denial of a permit for a company seeking to crush concrete on Lawton. The company has until Jan. 3 to appeal the building department’s decision. (BridgeDetroit photo by Jena Brooker)

Detroit’s Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department on Tuesday denied a company’s request to crush concrete in Core City to the relief of the more than 1,000 residents who were in strong opposition.  

The city’s Planning and Development Department, Environmental Affairs Division and Planning Commission all recommended the denial, noting that the operation didn’t fit with the city’s land use plans and citing its proximity to another development, among other concerns. The permit application from ProVisions, LLC and ​​Can-Am International Trade Crossing, LLC, sought to crush concrete at 4445 Lawton St.

BSEED received more than 100 emails against the permit, David Bell, director of BSEED, said in an official letter. During a November public hearing, 20 people spoke against it and a petition was created with more than 1,300 signatures to date. Last week, Core City residents held a community meeting and press conference, calling on the city to stop permitting heavy industrial land use so close to residential zones. 

“It’s amazing how we were able to organize in such a short period of time,” said Andy Chae, owner of Fisheye Farms. “It goes to show how passionate we all are about stopping the crusher,” said Chae, adding that he knows it’s not the end of the battle. 

The company has until Jan. 3 to appeal at which point the Board of Zoning Appeals would reconsider BSEED’s decision and the community would be able to give testimony again. 

Murray Wikol, the land owner and president of ProVisions, could not be immediately reached Wednesday for comment. 

“I know that this isn’t the end and we have even more energy now to see this through and use our collective power to stop something like this from happening in the future,” Chae said.

Bell said residents have cited concerns about the “proximity of the concrete crushing to the neighborhood…potential negative noise impact from heavy truck traffic and residential property value decline, and the adverse impact of particulate matter emitting from the piles upon the residential neighborhood.” 

The City Planning Commission noted that the site would be less than 300 feet away from a new Pope Francis center being built for people experiencing homelessness, while the Planning and Development Department expressed concern that the high impact nature of concrete crushing didn’t comply with the city’s Master Plan for future land use. The company also failed to show that the operation wouldn’t decrease the property values in the neighborhood and that necessary infrastructure to operate had been or would be installed, according to BSEED. 

In a Wednesday press release, Core City resident Vanessa Butterworth said the permit denial is just one win and that the city also needed to shut down the activity already happening. 

“We need to get Wikol to clean up his giant mounds of broken concrete and dust on his lot,” Butterworth said. “They tower over the neighborhood. When the wind blows hard, you can see the dust travel throughout the streets. It aggravates my asthma and as well as other aging neighbors who have very serious respiratory disease.” 

City inspector Darrin Williams said during the November public hearing that it appeared the company was already using the site for concrete crushing. Vaughn Smith, an operator for the site, confirmed at the time the company had been using the lot, but said the work being done was to clean it up. 

In March 2021, the company failed a city inspection for illegally using the site for aggregate and dirt storage and not maintaining the site in a “clean, safe, secure, and sanitary condition.” In March 2022, the lot failed another inspection for using the land illegally for portable concrete batching plants and outdoor storage yards, and again failing to keep the site clean and safe. 

If a written appeal isn’t filed by Jan.3, BSEED’s decision is final. 

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

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