Future still uncertain for steel plant

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TRENTON – City officials are determined to spark business, development and tax revenues at the 276-acre former McLouth Steel property, but whether the site will host manufacturing or other options remains to be seen.

Prospective developers Trenton Land Holdings – owners of the site expected to do business there as the Detroit Steel Co. – had requested a postponement of city council’s expected vote Monday on an amended proposal the company had submitted for developing the land.

City Administrator Jim Wagner said the council instead voted to reject the company’s plan, and also welcomed new ideas, including a proposal from former Detroit Lion Billy Sims to develop the site for manufacturing and storing dairy products.

“We’re still looking for the property to be redeveloped and to bring jobs and a tax base to the area,” Wagner said. “We want the issue to be resolved one way or the other.”

Efforts to negotiate with Trenton Land Holdings have yet to result in city support for the property, which has been mostly unused since McLouth Steel went bankrupt in 1996. The city approved an Environmental Protection Agency assessment earlier this year, and proposals from the current land owners have yet to meet council approval.

Prior to Monday’s city council meeting, attorney James Cambridge of Kerr, Russell and Weber sent notice that Trenton Land Holdings had withdrawn the amended resolution it had previously submitted, and requested time to consider a substitute version.

Instead, Wagner said the council determined that Detroit Steel Co. had been uncooperative and had begun development work without first having obtained the proper permits.

“The city is currently working with its legal counsel and building department staff to enforce the directive issued by the mayor and City Council as it relates to DSC and its operation and lack of compliance,” Wagner said.

Detroit Steel had previously asked that certain uses for the site be allowed, to include storage of manufacturing materials and chemicals, and city officials expressed concern that hazardous items such as pet coke would pose an environmental threat.

Mayor Kyle Stack reiterated on Monday that negotiations concerning the property have long been a source of frustration dating back to her 2011 election, and after three years the two sides seemed no closer to agreement.

City council on Monday accepted for consideration a proposal from Sims, whose company holdings include a national chain of barbecue restaurants, to explore development of a dairy products facility. That request is expected to be discussed at a future meeting.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)