Detroiters balk at Grosse Pointe moving public works warehouse to city

Grosse Pointe is trying to move its Public Works warehouse to Detroit - but some claim that department is infested with rats.

The plan is back at square one for now as Detroit's top lawyer just undid the initial agreement with Grosse Pointe. But the city manager there says this is far from over. 

Not in my backyard but maybe yours - the city of Grosse Pointe wants to house its public works department in a warehouse on Canyon Street in Detroit on the east side.

There's not enough space at the current site and some Grosse Pointers living near it say the move would rid them of a longstanding rat problem. 

"I don't appreciate it, they need to mitigate their own problems in their own community," said Detroit resident Yulanda Burgess.

Burgess says Grosse Pointe can keep its rats.  Their proposal sends a clear message to Detroiters.

"That community does not respect another community," Burgess said. "That those residents in Detroit don't count."

"There's rats and garbage in Grosse Pointe and we didn't want their rats and garbage here," said James Greenwick, Detroiter. "But nobody had seen the proposal and nobody had interviewed anybody in Grosse Pointe the last five years about any rats and garbage."

But James Greenwick, president of Detroit's Cornerstone Village Community Association, says he did, and the rat problems are practically non-existent.

Grosse Pointe's city manager says the warehouse would not be used as a dump or a garbage transfer facility. It would be used to store public works vehicles and materials and house offices for department employees.

"No one in the communities affected had been given the opportunity to see the proposal that it was given," Greenwick said. "So we were responding to something we didn't know about."

And some were unaware the city was not only entertaining the idea but gave the initial proposal the green light. Which was part of the reason Lawrence Garcia rescinded the agreement.

"The statute requires notice be given to residents within 300 feet of the affected property," said Lawrence Garcia, a Detroit city attorney. "And 40 people live in that zone. I think only about 20 received notice. Secondarily the activity of running a public works yard would be industrial use and the district in question is a general business use. It is not zoned for this kind of activity."

Grosse Pointe is buying the property from St. John Hospital. It plans to replace and maintain a Detroit alley and create a buffer of green space between the warehouse and nearby buildings.

Grosse Pointe's city manager says there's no rat problem there and there would not be rat problem here. It's moving forward with the city of Detroit to relocate its public works department.