Blight Beat: Ypsilanti Township asks for Circuit Court help in addressing residential junkyard
Ypsilanti Township will be asking a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge to order the permanent cleanup of the property belonging to two brothers who officials say have maintained a junkyard on a residential lot for much of the past 12 years.
The township has issued dozens of citations for blight-related issues since 2001 and the owners have been in front of judges and magistrates at the 14B-District Court a total of 21 times.
At an April meeting, the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees approved township staff taking the property owner to Washtenaw County Circuit Court. The goal, officials say, is to get permanent compliance through an order from a higher court.
“After 21 times, I think you’ve kind of earned your ticket to Circuit Court,” Township Attorney Doug Winters told the board. “This property’s day has come.”
“We can’t continue to babysit this one homeowner,” he later added.
The owner, Michael Bolton, and his brother, Mark Bolton, have each lived at or owned the home at 639 North Mohawk Ave. throughout the last 12 years and paid nearly $1,500 in fines.
Still, each time there is some degree of cleanup, the self-described junk collectors amass more items on the property, officials say.
Among other items that are on the property or have been on the property over the last 12 years are boats, trailers, dozens of cars, animal cages, trash, a hot tub, timber, vegetation, furniture, shopping carts, old bicycles, toys, 55-gallon drums, bottles, a pop machine, bullet-proof glass, appliances, piles of wood, piles of pipes and much more.
Significant amounts of oil and fuel have leaked into the ground and complaints show the Township Ordinance Department, Ypsilanti Township Fire Department, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department and Washtenaw County Environmental Health Department have visited the property.
Officials say the home has attracted rats, raccoons and “every other creature known to man.”
Documents show the owner and inhabitants used a variety of excuses for not cleaning up the property. When asked about junk that was still in the backyard in 2003, Mark Botlton replied that he “forgot that it was there.” Other excuses for failing to clean up junk ranged from one brother claiming the junk belonged to the other brother to pleads for another week to complete the job.
“At some point in time when you’re a kid, your parents say ‘Enough is enough,’” Winters said. “Well, we’re to the point where we’re saying ‘Enough is enough.’”
If the Boltons fail to clear the property and keep it clear, a Circuit Court judge can find them in contempt of court and hand down a stronger punishment than a District Court judge. That could include jail or heavier fines.
Neighbors have regularly complained to the township about the home. They alleged at one point that the number of cars “created a parking lot” that it made it dangerous for them to pull out of their driveways.
One neighbor suggested that the township lower his taxes because he had to live next door to a junkyard.
“We SHOULD NOT be having to pay so much, considering our living conditions next door,” the neighbor wrote in a complaint.
At one point another neighbor threatened to put up a 12-foot fence for his own safety.