Residents are concerned about the illegal storage of dirt and concrete on 4445 Lawton St. The owner of the lot has received dozens of violations for the site in the last decade. (Photo by Vanessa Butterworth)

Illegal storage of two-story high dirt and concrete mounds in the Core City neighborhood has nearby Detroiters angry that the city won’t do more to force the owner to clean it up. 

Last November, lot owner Murray Wikol, head of ProVisions LLC and Can-Am International Trade Crossing, applied for a permit to crush concrete at the site. Due to staunch resident opposition, the permit was denied in December by the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED). Even so, the lot has and continues to be used to illegally store tall mounds of dirt and broken concrete, city blight ticket records confirm. 

“What concerns me is the dust that is accumulating,” said Eleanor Parnell, a Core City resident of three decades, who lives one block from the site. “As far as the winds, this has been a pretty windy winter. I don’t know what’s blowing off the site right now, how it’s affecting me when I’m outside.” 

Wikol has received at least 62 blight tickets from BSEED in the decade that he’s owned the lot at 4445 Lawton St. Nearly half of the tickets have been issued in 2023, after mounting pressure from residents. The tickets are for dumping and storage of bulk waste without a permit, unlawful waste accumulation, and excessive weeds or plant growth. 

The company has been found responsible for a majority of the tickets and fined nearly $8,000 to date. A number of recently issued tickets and more than $20,000 in potential fines, still await a hearing and final determination from BSEED.

Residents say they are having difficulties getting BSEED to follow through on enforcement of Wikol’s illegal use of the site. During a November hearing to gather public comment on the permit application, and in the denial letter, BSEED officials acknowledged that the site was being used already and that it could pose a threat to public health and safety. 

“We have issued $44,950 in tickets total between this year and 2022 for a total of 57 tickets and we will continue to do so until we have compliance or the Law Department says we should stop,” BSEED director David Bell said in a statement to BridgeDetroit. “We have also engaged the law department to begin the nuisance abatement process.” 

Prior to 2022, Wikol received an additional five tickets for the site, a BridgeDetroit review of blight violations found. 

In early January, Wikol appealed BSEED’s denial of the permit, and a hearing was set for Feb. 20. But Wikol has now requested an adjournment, pushing the hearing back to an undetermined date, the Board of Zoning Appeals confirmed in an email. Wikol could not be reached Friday for comment. 

“We’re not surprised by the two-month adjournment,” resident Vanessa Butterworth, wrote in an email. “This is an obvious delay tactic from a losing party. Wikol is grasping at straws and scrambling to present a different plan to the city while holding our whole community hostage for leverage.”

An official for the company said during the hearing last fall that the firm had been operating on the site and cleaning it up. 

Butterworth and other neighbors  have steadily built up a fight against the proposed development, and the current use of the lot, since they first learned of the permit application in November. The group, Concerned Residents of Core City, has papered area neighborhoods with flyers against the project, held press conferences, and started a petition that now has more than 1,500 signatures. The group meets weekly to ensure that a concrete crusher is not ever built in the neighborhood. 

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

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