Supervisor disputes county attorney’s comments
Jun. 24, 2016 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
The on-going controversy regarding tax liabilities on 190-acres of land returned to the City of Detroit by the Michigan Supreme Court was addressed by Plymouth Township Supervisor Shannon Price last week.
The land, purchased by the township for $636,000 at an invalid Wayne County tax foreclosure sale in 2011, was first returned to Detroit by a Wayne County Circuit Court decision. That decision was upheld by a three-judge appeals court panel and reinforced by the recent decision of the Michigan Supreme Court justices who refused to even hear arguments from former state attorney general Mike Cox on the issue. The town- ship has spent nearly $85,000 in legal fees in fighting to retain ownership of the property, located on the former Detroit House of Corrections site on five Mile between Napier and Ridge roads in the township.
Price said last week that the legal wrangling and inherent attorney fees are continuing as the township attempts to reach a settlement regarding taxes paid on the land by the township. He denied claims made by attorneys for Wayne County that negotiations were at a standstill.
County officials have consistently maintained that all information leading to the improper sale of the land came from Plymouth Township and that they relied entirely on that information in foreclosing on the property and then offering it for sale. City of Detroit attorneys prevailed in all courts citing a state provision exempting municipally-owned land from tax foreclosure and proving that the City of Detroit was never correctly notified of any taxes due or owing.
The land, part of a larger parcel, was never properly recorded as a separate entity by Plymouth Township. When the taxes remained unpaid on the 133-acre tract sold to a developer, the entire parcel was listed as tax-delinquent by the township. Wayne County, acting as the collection agency, then took legal action foreclosing on the entire parcel, rather than just the 133 acres. The township then immediately purchased the land, once on the tax rolls at more than $15 million, from the county. When the City of Detroit was informed of the error by local resident Richard Sharland, who has farmland near the property, they approached the township in an attempt to negotiate the return of the property or a negotiated sale to Plymouth Township. Attorneys for Detroit claimed repeatedly that their efforts at settlement were rebuffed by township officials, including then Supervisor Richard Reaume.
Last week, Price displayed an email from Wayne County Corporate Council Jacob Ghannam acknowledging that talks were now occurring between the township and the office of the Wayne County Treasurer. The email was dated only one day after comments from Ghannam denying that such negotiations were under way and criticizing both Price and Cox for their failure to return phone calls were published in The Eagle. Price, however, maintains that negotiations had been continuing and that the entities have been very close to a settlement for several weeks.
This week, Ghannam told The Eagle that he could “no longer comment on the matter” and directed all inquiries to the Wayne County Director of Communications James Canning. Inquiries this week were addressed by Wayne County Senior Communications Manager Ryan Bridges.
“Given that we are actively involved in settlement negotiations, we would like them confidential until completed,” he responded.
“We’re really close. I was hopeful we had a resolution; there’s a couple of things we have to do on our end and get back to the Treasurers’ Office. We gave them half information…not the Treasurers’ Office but the Corporate Counsel for the Count,” Price summarized.