A good friend indeed

July 12, 2012  PLYMOUTH EAGLE.


Plymouth Township actually paid $606,000 for a 323-acre parcel of land assessed for taxes in 2012 at $16 million. Shouldn’t the question of a clear title to the property have turned up in a records search?


Neighbors like Richard Sharland aren’t as commonplace as they used to be.

That’s too bad.

Because Sharland, in an effort to help a friend and neighbor find out who his new landlord was, has uncovered some serious questions about a piece of property in Plymouth Township. About $16 million serious.

When Sharland, a retired corn, soybean and wheat farmer, learned that his neighbor had a new landlord on the 323 acres of land he had been renting to farm, he became curious. His friend had been paying the same landlord rent for years, and Sharland, always curious about any land sales near the property his family first purchased back in 1854, set out to discover who now owned the land.

What Sharland discovered was that an error in the assessing department at Plymouth Township in 2006 put the wrong owner’s name on property belonging to the City of Detroit. Taxes were never paid on the property and the real owner, the City of Detroit, never received a tax bill. Subsequently, the county sold the property for those unpaid taxes to Plymouth Township last September. Now, it appears, the City of Detroit has the right, by law, to seek financial damages up to the market value of the land or regain the property, now listed on the tax rolls at double $8 million.

Plymouth Township actually paid $606,000 for a 323-acre parcel of land assessed for taxes in 2012 at $16 million. Shouldn’t the question of a clear title to the property have turned up in a records search?

Apparently it should, since it took Sharland a few weeks of digging through public records and attendance at Land Division School in Lansing to discover the error. Wayne County officials were obviously confident they had the ability to sell the land, based on information received from Plymouth Township, where the error originally took place in 2006. Apparently, they were wrong. It took a retired farmer trying to help his neighbor to discover this multi-million dollar mistake.

The details of his research and the documents and paper trail Sharland has accumulated are extensive, to say the least. But he is confident of his position and hopes he can find somebody to listen to him to correct the situation. Sharland, a candidate for Plymouth Township treasurer in 2008, doesn’t want to do his hometown any harm, but he doesn’t want them in any further legal jeopardy, either. What he wants, he said, is to straighten this out because it’s the right thing to do. He’s now thinking of challenging the incumbent supervisor as an independent candidate in the upcoming election.

We think anyone who takes the time and spends the energy Sharland did in researching and evaluating and interpreting confusing, misleading, and often, contradictory, data, in an effort to help a friend, and his community, deserves some thanks.

We are sure he isn’t going to get it from Wayne County, which is now faced with a serious dilemma. Officials there need to prove him wrong and demonstrate they did have the right to sell the land, or face some serious legal consequences. We don’t think he’ll get any thanks from Plymouth Township officials, either, who now cannot be confident, despite their bravado, that through the error in their assessing department, they acquired a $16 million piece of property for $606,000.

Whatever the result here, what ever those in control may do or say, Sharland deserves a great deal of credit for doggedly pursuing the issue to help his neighbor.

We should all have such friends.

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