City seeks legal help with steel plant

By JAMES MITCHELL

Sunday Times Newspapers


TRENTON — Negotiations over use of the 276-acre former McLouth Steel property between the city and land owners may be determined in court.

City Council last month directed attorney Steven Ribiat, of Birmingham firm Brooks, Wilkins, Skarkey & Turco, to film a motion seeking court-ordered compliance from the owners of Detroit Steel.

City Administrator Jim Wagner said officials would prefer a less contentious resolution, but have exhausted their patience after what has become years of failed discussions.

“We have attempted to negotiate without going through the legal process,” Wagner said. “That didn’t work so we are now going through the legal process.”

Wagner said the matter was assigned to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan, who has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 19.

Ribiat did not respond to requests for comment.

Proposals in recent months from Trenton Land Holdings — the property owners doing business as Detroit Steel Co. — had been made for the property to serve as a warehouse and distribution center for manufacturing companies. City officials had objected to some of the potential uses, including concerns that petroleum coke byproducts would be stored at the site.

Requests made by city officials to amend the company’s proposals failed to produce a mutually agreeable definition for use of the land, which has sat mostly unused since McLouth Steel went bankrupt in 1996.

Earlier this year the city requested a site assessment from the Environmental Protection Agency to boost development interest, with support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Wayne County and Detroit Chamber of Commerce.

Most recently, City Council rejected in October the latest proposal from Detroit Steel, which had asked to postpone the council’s voting on the matter until the company presented a revised proposal. Wagner said city officials had grown frustrated with continued misunderstandings.

“There was a lack of knowledge of what they wanted there,” Wagner said of the company. “The council wanted more specifics, and that didn’t work out.”

James Cambridge, a Detroit attorney with Kerr Russell representing Detroit Steel, said he would file a response on his client’s behalf in court at the proper time.

“We have declined to comment until we file our response in the next couple of weeks,” Cambridge said.

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