Township loses court land case

Attorney Mike Cox represented the township in the court hearing, shown here at Plymouth Township Board of Trustees Meeting last month.  Photo by Don Howard.


Jan. 25, 2016  PLYMOUTH EAGLE.

Plymouth Michigan News


Michigan Court of Appeals CourtroomThe three-judge panel at the Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the decision of Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert J. Columbo ordering Plymouth Township to return a 190-acre parcel of land to the City of Detroit.

The 11-page appeals decision found no legal basis or viable argument in the briefs presented as arguments by attorney Mike Cox who represented the township in the court hearing. Township attorney Kevin Bennett was also present at the oral arguments last week.

Plymouth Township obtained the land, once on the tax rolls for more than $15 million, in September of 2011 for $606,150 in a Wayne County tax foreclosure sale. The contested property is located and Five Mile and Ridge roads, the site of the former Detroit House of Corrections, which closed in 1986. Plymouth Township obtained an installment purchase contract with Bank of Ann Arbor for the purchase which included monthly payments of $17,000.

The three-judge panel included Presiding Judge Michael J. Talbot, Judge Mark J. Cavanagh and Judge Kirsten Kelly who were unanimous in their opinion that the township arguments were invalid and without merit.

Attorneys for Detroit originally argued that the foreclosure was improper as municipally-owned land is not subject to tax foreclosure and the city was never properly notified of any taxes due on the land, arguments Columbo and the appellate panel found valid.

According to attorneys for Detroit, the township can now accept the decision and return the property to the proper owners or ask for a reconsideration at the court of appeals or attempt to take the matter to the Michigan Supreme Court.

City of Detroit Deputy Court Counsel Chuck Raimi said that he felt any further pursuit of the matter by the township would be “futile.”

While state law allows for the city as the damaged party to seek double the assessed price of the land as damages, Raimi said that action was “not applicable. The court returned the property to the city and that’s all we wanted.”

He added that to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, the township would have tonover come serious odds as the court agrees to hear only a very small percentage of the cases attorneys file for hearings.

“There’s nothing here that would merit review by the Michigan Supreme Court,” Raimi said.

Attorneys have said that the township would have to sue the office of the Wayne County Treasurer for a return of the $606,000 paid for the land. The treasurer’s office has repeatedly stated that they offered the land in the foreclosure sale based on information provided by the township and therefore acted properly in the situation.

City of Detroit attorneys claimed in their legal briefs that the township was “not an innocent third party. The Township engineered the foreclosure by failing to send property tax bills to the city despite the fact that the City at all times was owner of the Subject Property. Plymouth Township then purchased the Subject Property for back taxes and now seeks a multimillion dollar windfall at the expense of the City.” The court made no specific comment on those claims.

State Rep. Kurt Heise, who has declared his candidacy for township supervisor, said that the decision was “a huge loss for the township.” He added that further litigation would be foolishness. “We’ve already wasted enough of our citizens’ tax dollars. This is an open and shut case. They (township officials) need to move on.”

(Staff Writer Don Howard contributed to this story.)


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