LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Help stop the industrial metal shredder in Howell

Mark T. Robinson

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Livingston County is growing and we have all experienced the good and the bad of that process. Growth can come with some tough choices, including the balancing act between the needs of residents and the sacrifices intense development can bring.
Livingston County Catholic Charities (LCCC) is currently caught in that battle and that is why we have appealed the granting of a permit to build a new outdoor, industrial metal-waste shredder on land behind our agency and Adult Day activity center.

As you may know from personal experience, LCCC provides much-needed services to area residents though our charitable care mission at our facility on Grand River Avenue in Howell. We help vulnerable adults with medical conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s, those caught in the web of drug addiction, people seeking mental health counseling, or the many other agency services.

For example, through the Be Our Guest Adult Day Service (BOGADS) we provide a safe place where caregivers can bring a vulnerable adult during the day. This program gives our vulnerable adults a chance to get out of the house, spend time in a social environment and even receive therapeutic services. And, it allows the caregiver a break in their day to run errands, attend employment or even just take a break.

Sounds great, right? But, here is where Howell has run into a choice between what is best for residents and other local businesses: quality of life or growth at all costs?

In November, the City of Howell Planning Commission gave approval to a special use permit to allow a West Michigan company to come into Livingston County and construct an outdoor industrial vehicle shredder just behind our longtime facility where we serve these vulnerable adults.

As you might imagine, shredding a car is not like shredding a piece of paper. This is one of the most intense, heavy industrial uses imaginable, which is why it is not allowed as a matter of right— even in the industrial zoning district. A quick check online shows the experiences of other communities: constant increased noise, vibrations, explosions, large-scale fires, potential air, ground and water pollution and significant increases in heavy-duty truck traffic on the roads.

I appreciate the advantages of growth, but this would be growth with little advantage in terms of creating jobs or providing a catalyst for other new business opportunities. And, these impacts would impose a wide-range of negatives on Howell and the surrounding townships. While they can speak for themselves, I want to speak for LCCC and the people we help. Because, I believe some of our most vulnerable citizens deserve a voice.

We strongly disagree with the planning commission’s approval of this facility, as it will diminish the quality of life for the people we serve. Seniors and vulnerable adults who visit our facility would face the specter of noise, dust and odors, and being jarred by potential fires, explosions and the rumble of 65-70 additional trucks going past our door each day, which will add to an already congested Grand River. All of these issues can directly undermine the mission and goals of LCCC.

While we understand the well-intentioned goals of the planning commission to allow for growth, we feel that if this had been more thoroughly vetted they would not have approved the special shredder permit. And, had they listened to the worried residents who packed the November meeting, perhaps more time and thought would have been put into this important decision.

That is why LCCC has filed an appeal of the special shredder permit with the Howell Zoning Board of Appeals. We hope they review all of the facts and overturn the approval of the shredder. Additionally, we hope they also deny the request to make at least three exceptions to city zoning regulations, which are meant to protect us, and do so methodically and carefully instead of rushing to a vote.

You can make your voice heard at the upcoming meeting on January 22nd, at 7:00 PM, in the Howell City Hall. I hope you will join us.

Mark T. Robinson
Executive Director
Livingston County Catholic Charities

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