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Posted on Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Blight Beat: Ypsilanti Township awaits verdicts on Liberty Square, abandoned trailer parks

By Tom Perkins


The Michigan State Court of Appeals will soon make a ruling on the abandoned Liberty Square townhouse complex.

Tom Perkins | For

Two significant, ongoing blight abatement efforts in Ypsilanti Township could reach a legal conclusion this month.

In late January, township attorneys made their case to the Michigan State Court of Appeals to uphold a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge’s order to demolish the abandoned Liberty Square townhome complex. The township will also learn whether a Circuit Court judge agrees that it should be paid back nearly $100,000 for clearing two abandoned trailer parks a local company walked away from.

Although the Court of Appeals decision on Liberty Square could bring an end to the nearly three-year legal battle over the 151-unit-complex, Ypsilanti Township officials still are trying to find the funds to complete the demolition should the lower court’s decision be upheld.

Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Donald Shelton declared Liberty Square a public nuisance and ordered the 25-acre,17-building complex vacated and demolished in August 2011.

Shelton made the rare move of visiting the complex to see firsthand the conditions. He wrote in his decision that the “dilapidated and crumbling conditions at Liberty Square present a continuing, impending danger to the general public and to the legitimate property or personal rights of any person living or even entering upon the complex.”

Among other issues township officials alleged and Shelton found were extensive water damage inside the units, mold infestations, failing roofs, rotting fascia, rotting subflooring and fire damage.

But several homeowners in the complex, represented by attorney Don Darnell, disagreed. Darnell said none of the issues the township testified to were present in his clients’ townhomes, and the decision violated his clients’ 2nd and 4th amendment rights.

Ypsilanti Township Attorney Doug Winters said Shelton issued a detailed 20-page opinion of all his findings on the condition of the property.

“The court came to the only conclusion I believe they could, which is that this whole complex - given its vacancy, its deteriorating condition - it simply has to be demolished,” Winters said. “I believe the Court of Appeals, at least by their questioning, seemed to understand this was a blighted complex suffering from years of neglect.”

The township also made the case to Shelton at a January 24 hearing that it should be repaid for a $92,000 cleanup effort at two abandoned trailer parks.

In February 2012, the parks’ owners, WOC Realty, walked away from the two properties at 2590 E. Michigan Ave. and 117 S. Harris Road, just south of the Ford Boulevard bridge over East Michigan Avenue.


Mobile homes once lined the streets of the former Harris Road trailer park. It will be converted into a recreation park.

Tom Perkins | For

WOC lost its properties to tax foreclosure, and the township eventually bought them in a tax auction for a total of $8,500.

Winters said the township argued that WOC should be responsible for clearing its personal property from the real property.

“What they did was simply leave their parks in garbage dump conditions,” Winters said. “We had all kinds of problems that go with trying to clean up a abandoned mobile home park - fires, people stripping units, people doing illegal things. What was occurring at both locations was a very unsafe situation.”

Many of the mobile homes were stripped of scrap metal and provided shelter for vagrants. Several fires were started at the parks and many of the trailers faced serious issues ranging from collapsing porches to leaking roofs. Several of the homes were packed with garbage.

The Harris Road mobile home park has been totally cleared of structures and already resembles a recreation park. It will be fully converted into a park that is adjacent to the Harris baseball diamonds.

The East Michigan Avenue property is being cleared of its remaining infrastructure and will be converted into commercial real estate and put up for sale.

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for



Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

Just give the property to a developer and let then create something...............

Gyll Stanford

Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 12:59 a.m.

To rehab these units would be expensive, especially on an individual unit basis. To rehab the whole complex at once might benefit from the economy of scale. Before that would be feasible a correction or rewriting of the condo charter would be necessary. I looked at investing in these back in the 1990's. The downfall of this site was that the condo fees, as I recall, were about $160 A YEAR. That little amount of money was not enough to maintain the responsibilities of the association. Nothing economically viable could ever be done with this complex with out that change. A good project manager could do a rehab but no leadership among the owners ever rose to the challenge. With the TWP now one of the owners is is unlikely any desire exists except for what is argued in court. Today's financing climate would be the other challenge. This could be rebuilt on the existing foundations saving that cost of the infrastructure, but a newer design and higher density might be required to make the numbers work. The wrecking ball might be the last step for Liberty Square. Except for the owners still there and the upcoming lawsuits from their loss. If this property is sold they should be the first ones paid. Just glad I did not buy those several units in the 1990's.


Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

It needs to be torn down and something better then what is already there put in to its place.


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 3:21 p.m.

Liberty Square could EASILY be rehabilitated. What would it cost? $10,000 per unit? $20,000? $30,000 per unit? Certainly, it wouldn't cost more than that and certainly that would provide affordable housing in that area. The township government has NEVER explained their determination to tear that place down. They have NEVER explained why they want to strip the property owner of their rights. ONLY construction and real estate professionals can determine if that property can be economically rehabilitated. Judges and Township Clerks aren't qualified to make those decisions. Has the township ever hired anybody with those skills to make an accurate assessment of the economics? That property owner ought to hire a team of lawyers to sue the crap out of Ypsi township. I don't think they know how much trouble they're exposing themselves (and township taxpayers ) to. What DOES the township think that property should be used for? A dog park? A starbucks? We're supposed to have open government where decisions are made for everybody to see and hear, not the coffee shop meetings that the township uses to conduct public business.


Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 9:37 p.m.

It's a dump, health and fire hazard....and must go! And I speak as a Ypsilanti Township Tax Payer!

Bruce W

Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

Liberty Square has been an eyesore for years, I live a couple miles down the road and have driven by there for over 20 years, the complex always looked like a haven for drug dealers and other criminal types. The place needs to be torn down completely. "Affordable" housing usually ends up as an eyesore, renters don't take care of the place and throw toys and trash out in the yard, "Affordable Housing" usually equals slums even if it starts out as a very nice place, renters trash the place and move out leaving a mess for others to clean up and pay for, we don't need or want any "Ghetto" type neighborhoods around here.

music to my ear

Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 1:56 a.m.

yes clean it up and put the ex residents of camp take notice and any other homeless person there. now they will have a resident and can find work, have the city pay to clean it up and residents can rent from the city.


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

Actually I was wrong. I looked at Tom Perkins' last article. It would cost $72,000 to rehab each unit and $10,000 to $12,000 to demolish each unit. You do the math. And they got those figures from building professionals qualified to make those assessments. Also, this legal battle started with the property owners against the township in court. Finally, the Judge emphasized to the property owners that they were basically screwed over by the company that held the property. The company was collecting fees from the property owners and not using the money to keep up the property. Please read all of Tom's previous articles before you judge the township leaders.


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

It was estimated at least $70,000 per unit to rehabilitate the place.


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

Lefty...two things.Either A- you have not been following this story over the last year or so, or B-You've never been there


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 3 p.m.

I love it!


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

No duh to the impending doom of that place. Even fire fighters fear to tread in there. I think the angels gave up too. Down it goes and up goes a nice shopping mall. Nuff said. Lets move on to other buildings to tear down.


Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

jns131.....I'm sorry, but do mean their " sights " ? " sites " could also fit this article


Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

Ypsi twp is thinking of selling that property to a developer who does have their sites on a strip mall. Yes, there is K Mart there but that really needs a boost to what is not being utilized currently. Tear this thing down and build a nice strip mall or mall. Either way, that area needs to look better then it already does.


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

jns131...Seeing as there is a shopping mall about a half mile away I don't think that's gonna happen.( I didn't TD you BTW )

Fresh Start

Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

Nice work! Keep it going!


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

The executives of WOC should join fellow slumlord David Kirchner in a jail cell.