Chief Deputy Wayne County Treasurer David Szymanski
Apr. 21, 2015 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
The City of Detroit also named the Wayne County treasurer and the county itself as defendants in the original suit.
Plymouth Township has filed for a reconsideration through the Michigan Court of Appeals, seeking to overturn the court decision to return 190-acres of land to the City of Detroit.
Ownership of the land located at Five Mile and Ridge roads has been in dispute since attorneys for Detroit filed a lawsuit seeking to reclaim the land purchased by the township at a tax foreclosure sale for $606,150 in 2011. The land had been assessed at $15 million and reduced to $8 million at the last recorded valuation.
The land is part of the former Detroit House of Corrections property and was being leased to a local farmer by the City of Detroit prior to the title dispute and tax foreclosure sale.
In February, Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Columbo Jr. ruled that the land should be returned to the City of Detroit as the legal owner and that the tax foreclosure sale was improper. Detroit attorneys claimed in their legal arguments that as public land, the property was not subject to tax foreclosure. In earlier arguments, the attorneys noted, too, that the city was never properly notified of any amount of tax due on the land.
According to official title records, Plymouth Township incorrectly recorded ownership of the land as one 323-acre parcel rather than splitting the land into two separate parcels. A 133-acre section was purchased by a development corporation while the 190-acre section was still owned by the City of Detroit. Tax notices for the entire 323 acres were then erroneously sent to the corporation which defaulted and did make any tax payments on any portion of the land.
The township then notified the office of the Wayne County Treasurer that 2007 and 2008 taxes on the entire section had not been paid and the foreclosure sale of the entire acreage was scheduled. Plymouth Township officials were the only bidders on the land at the sale.
Representing Plymouth Township in the appeal of Columbo’s ruling, attorney Kevin Bennett claims that the 2010 State Tax Commission bulletin exempting municipal property from foreclosure did not recognize that the land is only exempt- ed when it is used for a public purpose. He noted in his court filing that Detroit left the land undeveloped and therefore the State Tax Commission exceeded it’s authority in exempting the land and the “inclusion of municipally-owned land is flawed.”
Bennett further argues in his filing that Detroit was aware of the taxes due and the pending foreclosure sale. He claims that the city knew of the obligation to pay taxes on the land, despite the failure of the township to send notices to the correct owner.
The City of Detroit also named the Wayne County treasurer and the county itself as defendants in the original suit. The county has claimed that they have no responsibility in the matter and acted properly as the actions taken were based solely on information provided to them by Plymouth Township.
Chief Deputy Wayne County Treasurer David Szymanski said at the time of Columbo’s ruling that the dispute is between the City of Detroit and Plymouth Township and that the actions of the county were appropriate in light of the information provided by the township.
Detroit attorneys have said that the city is willing to entertain an offer to purchase the land from the township.