By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – The Planning Commission voted Jan. 11 to deny Marathon’s proposed material storage and gravel parking lot at the driving range southwest of Prospect and Greenfield for a fall 2018 shutdown.
Despite reassurances from Marathon logistics lead Chris Tricoff and Mannik Smith Group Project Manager Brian Geer that proposed berms and trees would screen nearby condominium sight lines from the lot, residents concerns about increased traffic and noise led to a unanimous rejection by Commissioners Vincent Agius, John Fraser, Michael Haftel, Michael Kollmorgen, Craig Janofski and Bob MacVicar.
Geer said the 14.8-acre proposal has increased the berm height to 8 feet and added 6 foot evergreen trees, which would create a greenbelt screen as viewed from the second floor of the adjacent condominiums.
He said they modified the geometric layout of the entrance and exit so it would be curved, and vehicles would enter and exit the lot from Prospect via Greenfield Road to the east, and not the neighborhood bisected by Prospect to the west, with signage reinforcing the message.
Geer said a permeable, eco-friendly Geogrid gravel stabilization system, with a membrane, and dust control measures were also added to modified plan.
City Attorney Lawrence Coogan said the system membrane would prevent the upward migration of substances in the soil that should not be released.
Tricoff said temporary lighting, powered by gas or diesel generators, was proposed to light the lot, but they would try to get the quieter solar lighting if they could procure it from a rental company. He said Marathon would post a bond to ensure funding for repairs if Prospect was damaged.
Comments during the public hearing portion of the meeting were less concerned with the lot itself and more focused on quality of life issues – noise and increased traffic.
Resident Linda Heavenridge, who lives in a condominium near the driving range, and was a logistics specialist for clients at Ford, GM and Chrysler, said her research indicated that Marathon was not to be trusted, citing frequent Environmental Protection Agency violations and a Department of Justice investigation.
“I don’t believe anything that they say based on their past history,” Heavenridge said. “As far as gravel and the membrane, it still doesn’t work. My company had every kind of yard that you can imagine, we’ve had every kind of lay down area. The only kind of thing that works is cement with asphalt over it, and then it still gets contaminated underneath.”
She said the taxes Marathon would pay on the site would be minuscule compared to the taxes paid by surrounding residents, whose property values could go down.
“Is that few thousand dollars that they are going to get in taxes worth chasing the residents out of a nice area?” Heavenridge asked. “Who in the world is going to want to buy anybody’s property that looks over this mess?”
Prospect resident Sheryl Hopper said residents’ lives would be disrupted by the traffic and noise that the lot could generate.
“I do not want thousands of people driving on my street,” she said. “You want to start generators and lights at 5 a.m., and have thousands of people coming in. We’ve gotta go to work, too. I don’t want all those people on my road.”
Resident Sandy Ortiz expressed concern about the impact increased traffic could have on children using Elizabeth Street, which is perpendicular to Prospect, to walk to Allendale Elementary School.
“We have a problem with speeders and traffic,” she said. “Even though they say they will use Greenfield and Prospect, Allendale (School) is right there at the end of Elizabeth, which people use all the time to get through to Prospect.”
Resident Gwendoline Bentz expressed her frustration about the negative impact of Marathon’s pollution of the city, and how the proposed lot was another encroachment on the neighborhood.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen next,” she said. “It’s not a good place to live anymore. You might as well just cement the whole city over and make it into a giant parking lot for Marathon.”
Ann Jones said it was important to keep Prospect, a major cross street, free from congestion for police and fire runs.
“Now we’re connected with Dearborn,” she said. “You know where one of the fire houses is, down on Greenfield. You’re going to mess that up and they can’t come in that way? The people in Melvindale that need emergency (service) are going to die?”
Resident Ann Marschner said any decision by the commission without a comprehensive traffic and noise study would be premature.
Haftel said he was concerned about the impact of industry on the city, and acknowledged that it isn’t getting better. He said while Marathon and Mannik Smith have addressed issued raised at the Dec. 14 meeting, it does not change the impact of the lot.
“But at the end of the day, it’s still taking what was a golf course – which is ultimately going to change, this guy is selling – and it is an industrial complex,” he said. “You don’t know what is going to go in. And it may actually be ‘Geez, we should have gone for the parking lot.’ But we can only address what is in front of us today, and I am having trouble with it.”