Detroit disputes what it calls illegal sale of old jail site to Plymouth Township

September 26, 2012  PLYMOUTH VOICE.

Detroit disputes what it calls illegal sale of old jail site to Plymouth Township

By Eric D. Lawrence

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer


Detroit officials are weighing what to do about a piece of land that a city Law Department report claims was illegally transferred from the city to Plymouth Township as part of a tax foreclosure sale.

The parcel, just over 190 acres at 5 Mile and Ridge roads is the site of the former Detroit House of Correction, also known as DeHoCo, which closed in 1986.

Plymouth Township obtained the land, which includes an uncontested portion, in September 2011 for $606,150, according to Wayne County Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski. The land was sold because of unpaid taxes.

The Detroit City Council’s Budget, Finance and Audit Standing Committee is to take up the issue at 1 p.m. today.

In a letter to the council, dated Sept. 19, Timothy Beckett, supervising assistant corporation counsel in the Law Department’s real property and tax appeals section, notes that the Wayne County treasurer was contacted by the city but has opted not to take action.

“Contrary to state law, the Wayne County treasurer forfeited, foreclosed, and conveyed to Plymouth Township certain real estate owned by the City of Detroit that was part of the DeHoCo property,” the letter reads.

Beckett notes that though officials hope to avoid litigation, the city’s Law Department has gone to court in the past in tax foreclosure cases involving city-owned property. He said the city should plan to pay the back taxes owed on the property that date to 2009. With 2012 taxes included, the outstanding amount would be about $100,000.

The Wayne County Treasurer’s Office says it relied on information supplied by the two communities in the property transfer.

According to the Beckett letter, DEMCO 54, a subsidiary of a Plymouth Township company, failed to exercise an option from the city to buy the land, and it remained city property. The city also had sold a 133-acre parcel at the site to the company in 2006 that is not part of the dispute.

“We’re not assigning fault anywhere. I don’t think that’s productive,” Szymanski said, agreeing with the city that the law does not allow city-owned property to be sold through tax foreclosure.

Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume said Detroit has not contacted the township about the issue, and he is not sure how the sale could be reversed because the township has a deed to the property.

“We’re just relying on what the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office in their foreclosure has done, and it was my understanding that they did their due diligence, that they notified the City of Detroit about their rights,” Reaume said.

Instead, a township resident, Richard Sharland, informed the city of the issue.

Sharland, who is running against Reaume for supervisor as an independent, said he became aware of the issue because of a friend who has farmed the land in the past. He said Detroit is in a tough financial situation, and he only wants to do what’s right.




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