Refuse authority hears idea for athletic field at vacant incinerator property

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 3, 2023

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Could the Grosse Pointes-Clinton Refuse Disposal Authority’s former incinerator parcel in Clinton Township find a new use as a park and athletic field?

The Detroit Rugby Football Club hopes so. Michael Brennan, a member at large and member of the club’s fundraising committee, outlined an idea to that effect during a Sept. 12 GPCRDA Board meeting in Grosse Pointe Woods. He raised the concept of partnering with the GPCRDA so that the club could create fields and supporting structures for games and youth programs, while the GPCRDA would retain ownership of the property.

The former incinerator was located on a 64-acre parcel in the area of 14 Mile Road and Interstate 94, at 33701 Lipke Road in Clinton Township. The property has been vacant since the incinerator ceased operations in 1999. The incinerator was demolished in 2001, after which an independent company was brought in to conduct environmental testing at the site. Results of those tests, compiled in a 2001 report prepared by Conestoga-Rovers and Associates, came back fairly clean, with no PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, volatile organic compounds or semivolatile organic compounds found in surface water or lake sediment at the site. Although a few hard metals were detected, they were generally at only slightly higher concentrations than some government standards for residential direct contact.

Over the years, GPCRDA Board Chair Terry Brennan — Michael Brennan’s dad — said there have been “a lot of different ideas” with regard to what could be done with the property — including condominiums and a Christmas tree farm — but none of them have ever come to fruition for a multitude of reasons.

“I know we’re kind of hamstrung by Clinton Township in terms of rezoning it,” Terry Brennan said.

In 2002, the Clinton Township Board of Trustees voted to rezone the property from light industrial to R-5 single family. In 2003, the Clinton Township Board of Trustees approved a resolution that set some specific parameters for development of the property that would have allowed for higher-density residential use in the form of condominiums.

Despite the size of the parcel, residential development has always been hampered by natural and man-made complications. Only 25 of its acres can be developed for housing, since another 20 are occupied by a lake, and 19 were once used as a landfill and therefore can be developed for recreation but not housing.

Although it was rezoned for residential use, Terry Brennan said the current zoning “does allow a publicly owned and managed park” to be built.

“It’s kind of sad that it’s not being utilized at all,” Terry Brennan said.

He said if the club leased the property from the GPCRDA, it could be a source of revenue for the governmental entity, which handles trash disposal for the five Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods.

“I’ve walked through the property, and I think that with a little bit of work, it could be turned into a great asset,” Michael Brennan said. “There’s plenty of space there for all kinds of sports.”

He said rugby is played outdoors. The season runs from March through November.

The Detroit Rugby Football Club is a nonprofit that was founded in 1968 and has hundreds of members from around southeastern Michigan, Michael Brennan said. He said they’ve experienced tremendous growth in recent years.

“Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports (in America),” Michael Brennan said.

He said their vision includes a clubhouse with locker rooms, showers, restrooms and a restaurant area where they could serve concession-type food such as hot dogs. They’d also like to build a storage shed for equipment and a playground for kids, since rugby matches are often long and parents with children need a place for them to play.

Michael Brennan said they’d also like to be able to offer rugby programs to youths, such as camps.

“I’m quite passionate about the sport,” Michael Brennan said. “I want to see it continue to grow. Having a place like this would be great not only for the Detroit club, but for the sport.”

He said there are no dedicated rugby facilities in the area and only a handful of fields specifically for rugby in the entire country.

Besides rugby, the fields could be used for other sports, such as soccer and football.

Terry Brennan said this facility might be something residents of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods could use when it wasn’t hosting rugby events.

“I think it’s definitely something worth exploring,” GPCRDA Board member Heather Toutant said.

Terry Brennan said the board would need to talk this over with its attorney, John Gillooly, “to see if it’s feasible.”

It wasn’t known at press time when the GPCRDA Board might be considering this concept again. The GPCRDA Board’s next regular meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in Grosse Pointe Shores.