Andrew Trzaska | January 24, 2012
Demolition of the landmark smokestack on the former Sappi paper plant received approval from Muskegon’s City Commission on Tuesday.
In a six to one vote, commissioners approved the use of explosives to bring down the primary smokestack on the site. Commissioner Willie German was the lone no vote on the measure.
The smokestack is over 250 feet tall and 30 feet in diameter. The mill’s bleaching plant will also be brought down at the same time. The demolition date is set for Sunday, January 29 between 9 and 10 a.m.
Melching, Inc. of Nunica currently owns the property and has outlined its intention to demolish most of the mill, which has been on the site for over 100 years under multiple owners. Melching plans to bring in Idaho-based Advanced Explosive Demolition (AED) to do the job.
City ordinances require any use of explosives for demolition to be approved by the city manager and the city commission. While the latter has been achieved, city manager approval has not yet been received.
Among the regulations applying to explosive demolitions, the city requires appropriate dust control, including the wetting down of site and protective fences when needed to stop flying debris. City ordinance also requires that except for special cases, “no part of any basement or infrastructure below grade shall remain”, meaning all parts of a building must be removed.
Following several public comments from Occupy Muskegon members regarding the safety of the demolition with Muskegon Lake nearby, Commissioner Willie German asked AED about environmental outcomes and if there was a contingency plan for if things go wrong.
“We don’t want to contaminate this property any more than you do. As for what happens after the demolition, [AED] is not involved”, said Lisa Kelly, owner and CEO of AED. She also said that there would be no measurable emissions from the demolition.
Kelly went on to say that AED’s on-staff explosives experts would follow through on the job if a misfire occurs.
Demolition Date, Road Closure Plans Set
Kelly and other Advanced Explosive Demolition were present at Tuesday’s city commission meeting and laid out their plans for shutting down the area surrounding the mill.
The demolition is planned for Sunday, January 29 between 9 and 10 a.m., a time selected because traffic on nearby roads, including the major Lakeshore Drive thoroughfare will be minimal.
A 750-foot perimeter around the smokestack will be shut down in the time leading up the demolition.
Lisa Kelly of Advanced Explosive Demolition explained that a “soft” road closure would take place at 30 minutes before the scheduled demolition. A “hard” road closure will happen 15 minutes out, and 10, 5 and 1-minute warnings would be sounded as well.
If all goes as planned and no complications exist, all roads opened 2-15 min after the demolition.
The smokestack and bleach plant will fall in a north-to-northeastern direction, in the direction of Muskegon Lake and away from inhabited land.
Public viewing outside of the safety perimeter is permitted, but special viewing closer is limited to authorized personnel.
What’s Next For The Sappi Site?
What the property will be used for is still being decided. Residential use is unlikely for multiple reasons: the extent of how polluted the land might be from the mill’s operation is still unknown, the nearby Balcom’s Cove condominium development did not attract residents as widely as expected, and the potential for housing market growth in Muskegon is relatively flat at this time.
Industrial use appears to be a more likely outcome for the property. The property is currently zoned for industrial use and a complete cleanup of the land for residential use is unexpected.
Recently, Melching took concepts for the future of the property to community members, which were met with differing opinions. The preliminary plan Lakeside residents were shown included industrial and shipping.