Judge halts sale of disputed property
“The township is interested in all the options…It’s not an offer for sale.”…Plymouth Township Attorney Tim Cronin
Jun. 24, 2014 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
By: Don Howard / Staff Writer
Plymouth Township will not be selling the 190-acre parcel of land that was once home to the Detroit House of Corrections purchased at a Wayne County tax foreclosure sale.
Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert J. Colombo, Jr. granted a restraining order against the township last Friday requested by attorneys for the City of Detroit, who claimed in court filings that the sale was improper and illegal.
Township attorneys and board officials alike were adamant the township had a right to sell the land they acquired from Wayne County in a tax foreclosure sale in 2011. The township paid about $606,149 for the land, assessed at one time for more than $15 million.
Plymouth Township attorney Timothy Cronin denied township officials were trying to sell the disputed property and stated in court, “The township is interested in all the options…It’s not an offer for sale.”
Earlier this week, however, Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume met with a delegation from the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers after launching an advertising campaign for the entire 323-acre prison farm property, located west of Ridge Road. A newspaper advertisement placed recently by the township stated the township was seeking prospective developers and offers of an acquisition proposal.
In the 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.” The City of Detroit claim was referenced along with the Affidavit Affecting Real Property filed by Detroit attorneys for 190 of the total 323 acres.
Justin Robinson, director of business attraction for the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, confirmed Reaume and Michael Liu, chairman of the Chinese real estate development firm, Third Wave Group, met last week and discussed the proposed development during a three-day Detroit conference. Liu is quoted as saying he is working to develop a manufacturing park in Plymouth Township.
The court hearing Friday was also attended by Plymouth Township resident Richard Sharland and belatedly by Plymouth Township Clerk Nancy Conzelman, who arrived five minutes before adjournment.
It was Sharland’s persistent questions and Freedom of Information Act inquiries about the propriety of the tax foreclosure sale of the 190 acres that prompted Detroit attorneys to sue the township last year to reclaim the prison land and seek financial redress through the court.
Sharland said he still believes the property was stolen from the City of Detroit.
Before the hearing, Cronin said he thought Wayne County was “only marginally interested in this (case).”
During the hearing, however, attorney for Wayne County Jacob Granham testified, “Representation was that it (the property) was a single parcel at the time of the sale.” He testified further that county officials, “acted on information given to them by the township,” to which Colombo responded, “I’m very interested to hear what the treasurer has to say…” referring to Wayne County Treasurer Raymond J. Wojtowicz, who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with Plymouth Township.
Colombo first granted a motion allowing the Detroit lawsuit to be reopened, based on the fact all parties had no opposition. Cronin’s subsequent request for more time for “discovery” was denied and the court allowed Detroit attorneys 90 days in which to re-file their case. Detroit Deputy Court Counsel Chuck Raimi said the city legal team intends to re-file as soon possible.
Raimi told the court, “The township (Plymouth) had an obligation to do a lot split…and they didn’t address the legal authority. The City of Detroit is the owner of this property.”
Last year, attorneys for the City of Detroit were forced to withdraw their request for a hearing in the Wayne County Court 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 drawn up by then Plymouth Township Trustee Steve Mann was presented to the board of trustees by Township Treasurer Ron Edwards. Mann was, at the time, an attorney working for the Miller-Canfield firm.
Detroit attorneys have been working to lift a stay of proceedings granted by Circuit Judge Maria Oxholm last November, after Cronin’s claim there was a conflict of interest.