Township plans to sell disputed property
May 27, 2014 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
The former DeHoCo property is reportedly for sale by Plymouth Township despite a claim on the land by the City of Detroit..
Despite an unresolved lawsuit and an Affidavit of Interest filed by the City of Detroit, Plymouth Township plans to sell the prison farmland they purchased in a Wayne County foreclosure sale at 2011 and team up with State Rep. Kurt Heise, R. Plymouth, to appropriate $5 million in state funds to tear down the buildings in a nearby prison site that once was the Detroit House of Corrections jail facility.
At the board meeting last week, trustees voted to support House Bill HB-5179 sponsored by Heise and approved a resolution drafted by Township Clerk Nancy Conzelman, which read in part:
“The $5 million appropriation would provide the township with the means to tear down the former state prison site and prepare the usable area of the prison property for economic development…”
The prison farmland is the 323 acre parcel located south of Five Mile Road between Ridge and Napier roads. The City of Detroit lawsuit was filed in April 2013. Detroit contends that following the 2006 sale of 133 acres on the eastern-most part of the 323-acre site to Demco 54 LLC, a property transfer affidavit was filed and a property split approved that should have indicated Detroit had kept the remaining 190 acres. It states that state law, and specifically the State Tax Commission, forbid the foreclosure of property owned by a city.
In November, attorneys for the City of Detroit were forced to withdraw their request for a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court regarding the lawsuit filed against Plymouth Township and Wayne County demanding the return of the land. The withdrawal was based on the relationship of Plymouth Township with the law firm Miller-Canfield, the same firm chosen by the City of Detroit officials to represent the municipality in the city bankruptcy filing. The purchase order contract was drawn up by then Plymouth Township Trustee Steve Mann, an attorney working for the Miller-Canfield firm.
In his filing of affirmative defenses, township attorney Timothy Cronin stated in on objection that civil action was barred, “due to the fact that there is another civil action between some of the parties arising out of the same transaction or occurrence.”
Heise is associated with the same law firm as Cronin.
Last December, Heise introduced House Bill 5179 that would transfer the state-owned Detroit House of Corrections jail facility site (DeHoCo) in Plymouth Township to the Michigan Land Bank Authority for $1 dollar.
If approved, the bill would create a $5 million state appropriation to demolish the buildings and according to Heise if there’s anything left over it will be used for future private re-development as determined by Plymouth Township and the state.
Heise stressed that the property he was discussing was not the parcel involved in the legal dispute with the City of Detroit, but neighboring property. Heise said the $5 million appropriation would not include an environmental assessment or clean up of contamination, which is said to be prevalent at the site. Studies done in 2004 confirmed that substantial environmental contamination is prevalent at the site.
Township officials launched an advertising campaign for the 323 acre prison farm property west of Ridge Road to prospective developers seeking offers of an acquisition proposal for infrastructure development of land they now refer to as the Five Mile Technology and Recreation Corridor. The site is zoned IND- Industrial and contains 100-year flood plain areas and wetlands.
In their advertisement, township officials said there would be “legal challenges,” stating, “Plymouth Township purchased the property on September 22, 2011 as part of a Wayne County foreclosure process.” They mentioned the City of Detroit’s claim and referenced and their Affidavit Affecting Real Property for 190 of the total 323 acres.
“…190.57 acres still belonged to the City of Detroit…”
Their advertisement, titled Request for Qualifications-RFQ, offers prospective developers the option of submitting plans for just the eastern part of the property, 133 acres, eliminating the 190 acre parcel in contest with Detroit, or the entire 323 acres.
“Responders may provide a development plan or submittal for the just the western 190 acre portion, just the eastern 133 acre portion of the entire 323 acre parcel.”
“The Michigan Land Bank Authority are the experts at turning around old, contaminated sites like DeHoCo,” Heise said. “They know how to leverage grants, tax incentives, and market these sites for development and jobs. While the property will not be turned around as quickly as Robert Scott Prison, it’s critical that we get started, and get the right people on board now.”
Heise said he is working with both the House and the Senate on his project.
“I’m trying to impress upon the state we have an obligation, as a good neighbor, to take the buildings down, clear the site and make it presentable…”