Print Friendly and PDF

Chamber Advocacy In Detroit Leads to Improved River Protection Ordinance

Detroit City Council passed the Detroit River Protection Ordinance at the end of September, which changes Chapter 8 of the Detroit City Code on building construction and property maintenance along the Detroit River. The Chamber’s government relations team worked closely with multiple stakeholders, including businesses, the city council, and environmental groups to significantly streamline and improve the ordinance.

“From the introduction of the ordinance, the Chamber assembled a group of commercial stakeholders, ranging from bulk storage sites to residential, to help craft our proposed amendments that council implemented,” said Bernard Parker, director of Government Relations for the Chamber. “Council took a wide array of input, the ordinance improved throughout the process, and the Chamber appreciates the hard work that went into it.”

Confusing Provisions in the Original Introduced Water Protection Ordinance

  • All waterbody barriers must be registered
    • Exempt properties are public properties and one and two-family residential
  • Registration requires engineer reports and a fee
  • Establishes processes for sale and transfer of property on the waterfront
  • Requires regular inspections of the seawalls
  • Prescribes specific reporting guides for owners in the event of a breach

How Chamber Advocacy Streamlined the Process

  • Engage all members of the council with private meetings to discuss concerns
  • Engaged our environment and energy committee several times with meetings, letters, and informational sessions
  • Engaged the Detroit Building Safety Engineering and Environment Department (BSEED)
  • Formed workgroups with members and non-members to write letters, provide testimony to city council
  • Wrote two letters to outline important changes that would improve the ordinance

Important Changes Made by the Chamber to Improve Ordinance

Original Provision Chamber Amended Provision
Property owners must provide a report of land-use ownership history for the property extending to 1920 or first developed use. Amended this requirement to allow for flexibility. Owners need to provide this information that is easily accessible and relevant to seawall integrity.
Every two years, an inspection report by a licensed engineer is required. With proper documentation and maintenance inspections can be waived by BSEED.
Every five years, a geotechnical inspection is required for all seawalls. Amended to only apply to bulk storage sites and the inspections can be waived by BSEED.
Included definitions that are not in line with existing state and federal statutes. Amended to line up definitions with existing laws.
Vague in definitions in the original ordinance. More clearly defined a breach to include specifics of catastrophic events.
The reporting process was overly burdensome. Amended to be one notification to BSEED, who then takes care of the rest of the process.
All waterbody barriers were treated the same, regardless if they are a 200-year-old piece of wood or a state-of-the-art system developed last year. Amended reporting and inspection requirements to allow BSEED to determine if inspections are required.
BSEED was not capable of administering this ordinance due to staffing shortages. Amended to change effective date to July instead of April and worked with BSEED to ensure they have enough staff and to establish inspection guidelines.