Wyoming factory demolition held up

June 17, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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Financing for demolition of the former GM plant in Wyoming was confirmed last week when the Michigan Economic Growth Authority voted to allow the Wyoming Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to use state and local tax capture valued at $8,452,998.

However, nothing can happen at the 92-acre site because title to it is still held by the RACER Trust, set up by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court as part of the settlement of the “old” General Motors bankruptcy.

Wyoming is anxious to have the property re-developed and back on the tax rolls, occupied hopefully by advanced manufacturing plants with relatively high-paying jobs. But Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt said the city is “still working with RACER Trust to finalize some last environmental documents to get to that closing.”

“Their concerns are they want to make sure they have the environmental situation dealt with from here to eternity. Our issue is we want to make sure the environmental (agreement) does not prohibit us from redevelopment of the property. … We are trying to marry those goals,” said Holt.

“There are no substantive difficulties or issues. It’s just taking more time than we had hoped,” said Bruce Rasher, redevelopment manager at the RACER Trust responsible for the former GM site in Wyoming.

RACER, which stands for Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response, was the result of a settlement reached last year between Motors Liquidation Co., the legal remnant of “old GM,” the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the 14 states where 89 former GM properties are located. GM declared bankruptcy in 2009, and on March 31 this year, the new RACER Trust received title to all 89 properties and approximately $600 million in funds for remediating pollution at the sites and restoring the properties.

The 2-million-square-foot GM stamping plant, opened in 1936, had been the city’s largest taxpayer and a major source of high-paying jobs, before GM ended production there in May 2009.

Before RACER Trust took title to the property, however, Wyoming officials in January announced a deal in which MLC would sell the GM site to the Wyoming Brownfield Authority, which has a partnership with Lormax Stern Development Co. of West Bloomfield. Lormax Stern then formed an LLC called Thunder Ventures to manage the demolition of the plant and preparation of the site for new occupants.

RACER Trust is the largest trust of its kind in U.S. history, said Rasher, “and it is unique in that we have the responsibility to retain the environmental liability for any contamination that might be present at or below the ground surface after the sale. And the trust is sort of unique in that we have the funding to do that, as well. So what we are working through with the city and the buyer is our reservation of this responsibility to undertake remediation after closing.”

Rasher said the responsibility on RACER requires “the right of access” in order to remediate subsurface pollution, if required, “and the future recording of any land use controls which may be required by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the U.S. EPA.”

RACER, as the seller, is requiring that documents be put in place to ensure RACER’s right to deal with environmental contamination on the ground or under the ground, said Rasher. The city and its partner will be responsible for environmental regulations pertaining to removal of the structure itself.

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