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March 26, 1972 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1972-03-26

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city hall

Number 60 Night Editor: Chris Parks

Sunday, March 26, 1972











IN APRIL, 1968, Ann Arbor's Human
Relations Commission asked remov-
al of a junkyard from a heavily resi-
dential area of the city.
The commission charged, that P.
Lansky and Sons was an eyesore and
health hazard that also caused traffic
tie-ups in the surrounding neighbor-
When Mayor Robert Harris was
elected that same year, the relocation
of this junkyard quickly became a pri-
ority item. However, what might have
seemed a simple and straightforward
task really became quite the opposite,
eventually angering many residents of
the proposed relocation site and shat-
tering their faith in local government.
P. Lansky and Sons is located on two
sites, one on North Main St. and one
on Summit St. across from a play-
ground. Both sites are in Ann Arbor's
Model Cities area and nearby residents
have long clamored for a relocation of
the whole operation.
Model Cities Policy Board requested
the city to relocate Lansky's from the
Summit St. site. The board also re-
quested that the city make Lansky re-
pair his fence, reduce the scrap steel
to a level not exceeding the height of
the fence and to prohibit all trucks
from parking in that area to prevent
a safety hazard.
AFTER YEARS of relative inaction,
the city decided to move the Sum-
)mit St. site to allow expansion of the
'adjacent playground. In late August
of last year, City Council voted 10-1
in favor of a site in the southeast cor-.
ner of the city - part of an area used
by the city as its refuse dump.
This decision was made without con-
sulting the thousands of residents who
live in this part of the city and the
: ote was taken in spite of vocal oppo-
sition and massive protest to the pro-
bosed relocation site. The land was re-
zoned and a permit granted for the
operation of a junkyard. Harris sent
a letter to the residents of Arbor Park
and Colonial Square Co-operatives-
two nearby housing developments -
explaining the action.
Stating that the relocation decision
was made after extensive study, the
Mayor promised that the city would re-
View with area residents future devel-
opments in the "landfill." .But local
residents were skeptical and formed
the Southeast Ann Arbor Council to
review area development plans.
At first blush the landfill seems an
ideal site for the operation of a junk-
yard. Unfortunately, the city admin-
Istration has created a problem like
the one it was trying to solve. The
landfill itself is slated to become the
largest park in An Arbor.
The city purchased the first land
for the project in 1959 and more adja-
cent land was purchased later with De-
partment of Housing and Urban De-
velopment (HUD) help. The entire 172
acres was purchased for the develop-
nent of a park.

Because HUD money will also pro-
vide for the Summit Street playground.
expansion and the Lansky relocation,
residents of southeast Ann Arbor
turned to HUD for relief. HUD in turn
asked the city to justify the city's
rather extraordinary plan.
ON THE SURFACE Harris and City
Administrator Guy Larcom had
proposed to HUD that it trade six acres
-valued at $45,000-for Lansky's Sum-
mit St. site. Four more adjacent acres
were to be reserved for future use by
Lansky. if and when the city bought
the Main St. site. Promises were made
for buffering the site with mounds,
fences, plantings, and limited access.
However, through the multiple trans-
action between HUD, the city and Lan-
sky, the city would benefit financially.
Since the city and HUD would evenly
split costs for paying off Lansky, after
Lansky used the entire sum to pay for
city property, the city coffers would
gain 100 per cent interest on the trans-
In addition, the transaction would
shift the amount of the city's initial
contribution from a frozen bond fund
to an operating fund where the money
could be readily used.
HUD officials found themselves
trapped between two of their own
projects by the city's strategy. In re-
sponse, HUD asked the city several
questions: Was the landfill the only
suitable site? What was the explana-
tion for replacing a half acre with six?
What would be the methods of shield-
ing the junkyard from the adjacent
parkland? Was there any other per-
tinent information?
THE CITY's analysis of other pos-
sible sites included township areas,

as well. Relocation at the city airport
was rejected since the airport rests
above the city water storage tanks,
thereby implying that runoff even
from a relocated Lansky operation
would be contaminated.
In addition, the version the city
gives of its search for other relocation
sites is subject to question. The city's
response to HUD, dated Feb. 4, reject-
ed most of the city area, by saying that
Ann Arbor is almost completely resi-
dential and little land remains that is
This explanation not only overlooks
the considerable area recently annexed
by the city, but also implies that no
vacant and available land in the city
has the correct zoning.
The city rounded out its case by re-
jecting three sites on the basis of in-
correct zoning. The city also included
a letter from it's consultant attesting
to the unavailability of any site except
the landfill.
This same consultant had been told
of correctly zoned land in the city a
month before he sent his letter to Lar-
com. A few weeks after .the city re-
plied to HUD, he contacted the city
again, explaining he had overlooked
some sites brought to his attention and
that there was indeed land that might
have been considered.
THE REMAINDER of the city's letter
is brief but no less remarkable. The
city attempted to justify replacing the
present half-acre Lansky on Summit
St. with six acres by saying that Lan-
sky would only move away from the
Main Street site if the new site could
accommodate the operations of both
the old sites.
The city said six acres would be re-


The Lansky decision was made without consulting the thous-
ands of residents who live in this part of the city and the
vote was taken in spite of vocal opposition and massive
protest to the proposed relocation site.
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city-owned land, and private land
within the city. Because the city regu-
larly received complaints of building
code violations on Lansky's property,
it was hardly surprising that no coun-
ty townships volunteered to plan a
site for a junkyard that was once in-
cluded on the Michigan Highway De-
partment's eyesore list.
"Scrap yards have the same effect
as a plague upon township officials,"
complained the city's real estate con-
sultant early this year.
The analysis of city-owned land
eliminated seven of nine sites because
"they were all purchased with HUD
grants for park and open space pur-
poses." This same consideration, how-
ever, seems to apply to the landfill
Another park site was eliminated on
the basis of land use conflict, a reason
which applies equally to the landfill

quired to satisfy city codes concerning
land needed for operations like Lan-
sky's. But Lansky's two sites now total
only 1 3/4 acres and still, according to
official figures, conform to the speci-
fied code.
To sweeten the deal, the city planned
to furnish Lansky with a septic tank
and well if he moved to their land-
fill site, but since Lansky's six acres
have already been "fille'd" with refuse
and covered, according to Barry John-
son, assistant Washtenaw County pub=
lic health engineer, many environmen-
tal questions arise.
The Southeast Ann Arbor Council
asked Harris to explain the discrepancy
between official figures - supplied by
the city tax assessor - and those sent
to HUD. Harris said he could not at
that time but has since written them
a letter with figures even farther off
the mark.,Harris not only contradict-

ed the City Assessor's figures, he said
that as a result of city regulations,
Lansky will need three acres and an
eventual three more to accommodate
both old sites.
Finally, the Mayor neatly demon-
strated the carelessness of Planning
Director Michael Prochaska. Prochas-
ka, Harris wrote, said that all the land
zoned for heavy industry in the area
senhower Parkway extension, and the
Ann Arbor Railroad was controlled by
bounded by S. State, the proposed Ei-
one outfit which was unwilling to
sell to Lansky.
HOWEVER, at the City Council meet-
ing on March 20, C. William Col-
burn, a Third Ward Republican City
Council candidate, proposed sites in
this alternative area. In early March
he had met with representatives of the
Lansky business, the owners of the
sites, and Republican councilmen. To-
gether they found that Lansky was
most interested and preferred the al-
ternative site to that proposed by the
city. In that meetings the price of the
land ranged from $15,000 to $20,000
per acre. Both the owners and the Lan-
skys were interested in pursuing furth-
er negotiations.
But the afternoon before the Coun-
Photos by
cil meeting city officials got wind of
the proposal Colburn would make that
evening. Planning Director Prochaska
was dispatched to make polite in-
quiries. While the owners of the al-
ternative area do not hold all the land
financing together a major office
in common, they were planning and
building which will be near the sug-
gested relocation site.
Prochaska pointed out that the prox-
imity of a junkyard would threaten the
value of their projected office build-
ing. His argument was that since the
office building would be ten or eleven
stories high, some possibility existed
that the higher floors would look down
on the Lansky operation - a half mile
away. As a result, Prochaska said that
the district center plan for the whole
area might have to be reviewed again
by his office were the junkyard to be
relocated there.
Being seasoned land speculators, the
businessmen little needed the advice
of the Planning Director concerning
the future value of their own land.
The possibility of a review by the
city evidently had its effect, however,
since the asking price of the land went
up prohibitively high to $30,000, an in-

Lansky's Summit St. site . .
better site than the landfill has come
But, he continued, citizens are now
approaching the city with sites faster
than they can be considered. He fur-
ther noted that the controversy cen-
tering on six acres had missed the
point - that the goad needed to get
Lansky to move included a six acre
At least Larcom has finally cleared
up the six acre mystery. The city's in-
sistence on giving Lansky six acres
was not in order to fulfill code require-
ments, but to offer what they thought
was needed to make Lansky move to
an area where the city buries its
Quite clearly it is to Harris' politi-
cal benefit to move a junkyard which
has been a thorn to the Model Cities
residents for decades - especially with
Democrats being criticized for their,
role in the Packard-Beakes bypass
Another possible benefit is purely
monetary. Even if the sale itself nets
only a small amount of money, the ef-
fective transfer of "frozen" funds into
an active account is significant enough
to benefit a city that considers itself
in a financial crisis.

larities, the city can assume that in-
accuracies will not be caught. In spite
of having knowledge of the failings
and oversights in the information re-
ceived from Ann Arbor officials, Wil-
liam Szymczak, the community devel-
opment representative in charge of
making the first review of the city's
proposal, has given his preliminary ap-
The matter is now in the hands of a
HUD review committee. The only snag
that the city need meet now is a HUD
requirement that the city replace the
land sold to Lansky's with parkland of
equal quality.
Meanwhile, petitions with thousands
of signatures have not had an effect
on the city administration.nLetters
from the boards of nearby massive
HUD-funded housing cooperatives ask-
ing HUD to hold open hearings on the
matter have been seemingly ignored.
Beyond the nuisance of having a Junk-
yard scored by its current neighbors
moved to their neighborhood, local
residents seem frustrated by their in-
ability to influence city ;government.
And to them, at least, the image of
even local governments as impersonal
bureaucracies has taken on a new re-
The author is a graduate student in corn-
paratiue literature and vice president of the
Southeast Ann Arbor Council.


UNLESS THE few inspections
vestigations that HUD's
Regional Office makes reveal

and in-


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