Sappi Fine Paper in Muskegon
MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) - Some residents in the city of Muskegon want to restrict how the owners of the Sappi property can use the 120-acre site going forward.
More than 150 residents signed a petition earlier this year to get Proposal 4 on the November city ballot, which asks voters if they want to change zoning on the Sappi Property from "general industrial" (I-2) to "waterfront marine" (WM).
The waterfront marine designation would allow things like docks and marinas. It would not allow a scrap yard, which is what is currently housed on the site.
Blufton neighborhood resident Larry Page collected signatures for the petition. "I only had one or two who did not want to sign it," says Page.
Page's front yard has two signs in support of Proposal 4. He says using the property as a scrap yard is "bad for our lakefront, bad for our economy, bad for Muskegon. We must do the right thing clean and re-zone it."
Nunica-based Melching Inc. owns the property, which includes more than one mile of Muskegon Lake shoreline. The company is currently razing the old paper mill and using the site as a scrap yard to process hundreds of tons of metal.
If Proposal 4 passes, it could threaten long-range plans to continue using the site for industrial purposes. Muskegon Mayor Steve Gawron believes it may also lead to litigation.
"There is always the possibility that the property owner in an attempt to protect his interests could bring suit against the city," says the mayor.
Gawron also fears any action in court would bring an end to on-going talks with Melching. The parties are attempting to develop a plan with more than one zoning that would allow multiple uses for the property.
"Ultimately we are going to be looking at a mixed-use development -- anything from recreational to commercial to light industrial," Gawron said. "Whatever makes sense, and would be best for the community as a whole."
Reported by Jon Mills in Muskegon