Deed Restrictions Holding Up Sale Of Former Sappi Paper Mill

Posted at 11:21 PM, Mar 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-13 23:21:28-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. (March 13, 2014) – New details of what some say is holding up the sale the former Sappi Paper Mill property along the shores of Lake Muskegon.

The mill closed in 2009 and ever since then people in the area have been watching demolition, waiting to see what will come next.

Thursday night at a meeting hosted by the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership FOX 17 got a glimpse of why they’ve had to wait so long.  We learned Sappi may no longer own the property, but they have a say when it comes to what happens with the land.

All the wondering by the people in the Muskegon area when it comes to the former mill hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

On Thursday Anne Couture with the DEQ gave a packed room an update on the progress of getting a new owner in place.

“Hopefully that we can have some kind of agreement inked before this summer so that property transaction can go forward,” Couture said.

According to the DEQ the main hold-up has to do with deed restrictions.   The DEQ said nothing on that property in terms of contaminate samples being taken, rezoning, or otherwise can take place without Sappi’s approval even though they no longer own the property.

“It’s a way for a corporation to protect itself from future actions by other parties who may want to go back to that corporation and sue them for environmental activities that they need to undertake or even some harm as a result of the environmental conditions,” said Couture.

The DEQ is acting as a mediator between a potential unnamed buyer and the current owner, Melching Demolition.

“We’ve had to be rather creative and continue to be from a legal perspective, to try and put together a framework that would make them comfortable enough to remove deed restrictions that are inhibiting development on the property,” she said.

In the meantime the demolition of the existing structures on the property continues.  The DEQ said that will help speed up the process of redevelopment if and when a sale takes place.