Pollution and racism: Kzoo pauses tax break talks

A foul odor on Kalamazoo's northside is leading people to question tax breaks for the business causing it.

An unpleasant, rotten egg smell that has permeated the Northside for years is raising questions about racism and prompting city leaders to reconsider a business’s tax breaks.

Graphic Packaging International (GPI) is an industrial paper processing company with a major factory near Paterson Street in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood. It’s also the source of a smell that neighborhood residents say impacts their quality of life and may cause health problems.

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Last year, the Kalamazoo City Commission approved a 12-year tax abatement for the company that included requiring it to reduce the smell. The state’s treasury department rejected the plan and kicked it back to the city to reconsider.

The whole ordeal is raising the specter of Kalamazoo’s racist past. Redlining policies forced many of the city’s Black and other minority population to live on the Northside, where properties were cheaper due to their location near industrial sections of the city. That redlining is still affecting this major residential area.

The city commission has put a pause on discussions of tax breaks for the company while they explore ways to ensure GPI cuts back on the smells it produces.


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