City of GR clears yard of ‘recycler’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Bill Peterson heard a knock at his door early Wednesday this morning. It was a Grand Rapids police officer.   

“Answered the door for him and he and three other people came inside and gave me the search warrant,” Peterson said.

Moments later, an army of workers began picking through items in the backyard of his home on Cherry Street SE near Union Avenue SE. Old trailers were loaded onto flat beds and household items were loaded into city garbage trucks that were waiting out front.

The city of Grand Rapids clearing the backyard of Bill Peterson, who says he is keeping these items out of landfills. (Dec. 11, 2019)

Peterson says he was keeping these items out of landfills.

“97 percent of everything they’ve hauled off is reusable. It should be recycled,” Peterson told News 8.

The search warrant gave the city permission to search and remove all items that were in violation of the city’s nuisance, health and safety codes and items associated with an illegal home business.

Peterson’s issues with City Hall began at least a decade ago.

City records dating back to 2009 show 25 citations issued against Peterson and include everything from tall grass ordinance violations to running a trash hauling business in a residential area.

Peterson claims he has yet to have his day in court. 

In an email to News 8, a city of Grand Rapids spokesman says the city has tried to work with Peterson to resolve the issues.

“We regret that this matter has reached this point,” Steven Guitar, GR Media Relations Manager, said.

So, does Peterson understand why the city and some neighbors may have a problem with the items piled up in the backyard of his Heritage Hill home?  

“From a practical standpoint, if you go interview my neighbors, they will tell you quite the opposite,” Peterson said.

One of those neighbors says she’s sympathetic, even supportive of Peterson’s recycling effort, but she’s also happy to see the clutter going away.  

“I’m sad, but it is also nice to be able to not see junk when I look out my window, so I think it’s bittersweet,” neighbor Cora Santman said. “He’s a nice dude.”

As he stood by making sure crews took only items covered by the search warrant, Peterson says he’ll probably hire a lawyer and then figure out if he can get any of the items back the city took away.

Beyond that, he’s not sure what his next move will be. 

“I’m not in a position where I can figure out what that is yet,” Peterson said.