Judge orders closure of Value Foods in Gault Village in Ypsilanti Township until repairs are made
A judge has declared an Ypsilanti Township Value Foods store a public nuisance and ordered it closed by 5 p.m. today. It must remain unoccupied until major repairs are made to its leaking roof.
The store is located in the Gault Village Shopping Center near Grove Road and Interstate 94. The judge also ordered the plaza's owners, Sylvan Lake-based Union Lake Associate’s LLC to demolish an abandoned Kmart on the property.
Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Donald Shelton wrote the order following an emergency show cause hearing on Wednesday afternoon. The hearing was granted after the township filed a verified petition alleging a long list of complaints about the deteriorating conditions at Gault Village.
Chief among those issues were major leaks in the roof at the Value Foods. Township building inspectors and attorneys provided evidence of serious roof leakage, which they said caused it to be “raining harder inside ... than outside” during several early March rainstorms.
In his order, Shelton stated concerns over ceiling collapse, food spoilage, electrical fire hazards and other public health issues.
Gault Village attorneys told Shelton that Value Foods is responsible for its part of the shopping center’s roof per the terms of its lease, but Shelton said that was a matter between the two parties.
“He told them that Union Lake is the owner of the building and they’re the owner of the structure, they have been aware of the issues for a long time, so they were responsible for the repair and maintenance,” Ypsilanti Township Attorney Dennis McLain said.
AnnArbor.com's phone calls to the Value Foods were not answered on Thursday, and a Union Lake attorney did not return calls.
However, a Value Foods manager told AnnArbor.com on Monday afternoon that the issues were nothing more than “common leaks” brought on by an old roof, and he said he didn’t believe the township should be intervening.
According to Shelton’s order, the Value Foods cannot reopen until a structural engineer inspects the building to assess its integrity. Once repairs are made, the Washtenaw County Health Department and township building inspectors must also inspect and approve the premises.
Photo courtesy of Ypsilanti Township
The township inspected the Kmart with an administrative search warrant Aug.10. Following that inspection, McLain said a Union Lake agent provided a verbal commitment to have the building torn down by the end of the year, but no action was taken.
McLain said the situation is complicated because the unit next door to the Kmart is occupied by Measurement Inc., a company that scores Michigan schools’ standardized tests. Township building inspectors have found a mold infestation in the former Kmart and on the wall between it and Measurement Inc.
McLain said Union Lake needs to put up a new wall between the two units in order to tear down the old Kmart building, but Measurement Inc. had asked Union Lake to delay doing that until July, when there's a break in test scoring.
McLain said he is unsure how Union Lake and the township will reach an agreement on a timeline for demolition, or if Union Lake will tear the building down without a court order.
“Whether or not that will happen is again anyone’s guess,” he said. “We’ve been promised verbally demolition would be undertaken by Union Lake, and it still has not happened. There has been a history of promises made, promises broken by this company.”
The order also gives township building inspectors authority to enter and inspect all stores in Gault Village. McLain said officials have serious concerns about mold infestations and roof leaks from previous visits. He said he is unaware of what the lease agreements mean in terms of who is responsible for each units’ roof, but he contended it doesn’t matter.
“Maintenance of the whole building is the responsibility of Union Lake,” McLain said. “What they do with the individual tenants is of no concern. Union Lake is the longtime owner of that property. ...
“This turned into a very critical situation because of the sheer amount of water pouring into that grocery store.”
Township Building Director Ron Fulton said building inspectors visited the plaza on several occasions during rainy weather in early March and found water “showering” through a hole in the Value Foods' roof.
Township attorneys and Fulton provided photographs showing the extent of the issues as evidence.
Value Foods employees tried cordoning off an area where water was leaking onto the floor and shelves, but water continued to flood outside that area, Fulton said.
Building officials also found water leaking into light fixtures that weren’t in use, and Fulton said a store manager told inspectors that the area couldn’t be kept dry because of the rain’s severity.
Ypsilanti Township video inspectors shot this video showing conditions at Value Foods:
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. To reach the news desk e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-623-2530. For more Ypsilanti news, visit our Ypsilanti page.