Former owners of abandoned trailer parks must pay back more than $100K for cleanup effort
In February of 2012, the former owners of two Ypsilanti Township trailer parks abandoned the sites and left the township and county to foot the bill for the cleanup.
Earlier this month, a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge ordered the three owners to pay the township back $92,000 and pay the Washtenaw County Treasurer's Office $12,000 for the cleanup effort and cost of paying emergency utility bills.
When the owners of WOC Realty walked away from the two properties at 2590 E. Michigan Ave. and 117 S. Harris Road, they left behind a combined 62 mobile homes where a number of tenants never moved out and squatters moved in. The park then went into tax foreclosure.
Township Attorney Dennis McLain said the owners, Robert Stahl, Kim Peters and Michael Peters, were pocketing rent money instead of paying property taxes or maintaining the park, and the township is pleased with the court’s ruling that it is entitled to reimbursement for clearing the mess.
“They let both parks go into ruins while they were pocketing the rental receipts instead of paying the maintenance on the parks,” McLain said. “The township petition also claimed they were renting units under the guise of renting to sell them, and then not transferring the title.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
“But they transferred the cleanup costs to the taxpayers when they abandoned the parks. They created the nuisance before they abandoned the park and under Michigan laws they are responsible (financially).”
In his opinion, Judge Donald Shelton wrote that the county and township were forced to maintain the park and pay utility bills to keep the utilities on for the remaining inhabitants once WOC walked away.
"Defendants created the nuisance the Plaintiffs were forced to eventually clean up at public expense," he wrote
McLain said he plans to send a judgment to the owners’ attorney, Patrick Conlin, and begin the collection process. McLain said he isn’t sure if the defendants could file for bankruptcy.
Conlin did not return AnnArbor.com calls for comment.
As the parks dissolved, township officials were confronted with a wide range of issues.
Building inspectors couldn’t tell which trailers were inhabited and which were abandoned as they monitored the situation. Many of the trailers were gutted and torn apart by scrap metal thieves, and one had its roof completely torn off as the parks were slowly abandoned.
Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office deputies regularly responded to situations at the parks and firefighters responded to several fires. Before the park on Michigan Avenue was totally abandoned, one trailer was so packed with garbage that it spilled out windows and the front door. Residents there were also subjected to contaminated drinking water.
Neither WOC property lost to tax foreclosure was purchased in the county's foreclosure auction, and the township eventually bought them in the no-bid auction for a total of $8,500.
It plans to sell the Michigan Avenue property and there has been discussion of making a recreational park at the Harris Road site.
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.