Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree
Oct. 2, 2016 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
“Nothing contained herein shall be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing on the part of any party.”
In an effort to “avoid potential litigation,” Wayne County officials have agreed to allow Plymouth Township to recoup taxes erroneously paid on 190- acres of land when and if the township is able to sell an adjacent 133-acre parcel.
The agreement to allow the township to keep about $606,000 and up to $135,000 in legal fees from any sale or transfer of the land was drafted by the office of Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree and unanimously approved by members of the township board of trustees last week. The county will receive the remainder of any purchase price from the property, estimated at $3 to $5 million by township officials.
The two parcels, totaling 323 acres, were part of the Detroit House of Corrections land near
Five Mile and Ridge roads. The 190-acre parcel was the property of the City of Detroit while the 133 acres was purchased by a local developer, Demco 54, which defaulted on the property taxes. At the time of the Demco purchase, the land was erroneously recorded as one parcel, rather than two in the township assessor’s office. When the taxes on the land were not paid, township officials notified the county of the arrearage, as prescribed by law. The county then included the entire 323 acres in a tax sale, based on the information provided by the township.
Plymouth Township, having the right of first refusal, then purchased the land, on the tax rolls at one time for $15 million, for about $636,000 in 2011 at a county tax foreclosure sale.
Attorneys for the City of Detroit attempted to reclaim the 190 acres during three years of legal wrangling. A final township appeal to the state Supreme Court met with a refusal by the justices to hear the matter and the lower court ruling to return the land to Detroit upheld. Attorneys for the city successfully argued in both circuit and appeals court that municipally-owned land, by state law, is exempt from tax foreclosure.
That decision prompted efforts to recoup taxes paid by the township on the portion of the land determined to be the property of the City of Detroit. Township attorney Kevin Bennett told the board members and audience that he was not involved in the negotiation of the settlement or the drafting of the agreement.
According the language of the stipulated agreement, the dispute between the county and township regarding adjustment of the subject taxes was settled “in avoidance of potential litigation and in furtherance of returning the property to productive use…”
The agreement states that if the township sells, assigns or transfers ownership of the 133 acres or any part is developed (or underdeveloped) for fair market value, the township is entitled to retain $606,150 from the sale or transfer along with reasonable attorney fees not to exceed $135,000.
The settlement agreement also states that acknowledgement is a compromise of disputed claims and “nothing contained herein shall be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing on the part of any party.” The agreement will also allow the township to retain any money spent on demolition or infrastructure improvements at the site.
City of Detroit officials have indicated that the 190-acre section they own at the site is also on the market although no price has been announced.
The two sites are adjacent to another 125 acres of former prison property at Five Mile and Beck which are now owned by the state land bank.
State Rep. Kurt Heise, who will become the new Plymouth Township Supervisor following his successful write-in campaign in August, was instrumental in obtaining state grant funds to demolish buildings at the land bank site which he often referred to as “an eyesore.”
Photo: Tell-Us-Detroit TV