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Posted on Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Ypsilanti Township names 45 Liberty Square owners defendants in lawsuit; seeks demolition of complex

By Tom Perkins


The building exteriors all have been condemned in Liberty Square.

Tom Perkins | For

Ypsilanti Township is asking a judge to declare the Liberty Square townhouse complex a public nuisance and order its demolition. The township named all 45 remaining owners as defendants in a verified petition submitted to the Washtenaw County Circuit Court.

The suit follows a year that brought significant changes in the ownership of the 151-unit complex off Grove Road and rapid physical deterioration of the properties, which has led to unsafe conditions. The township is in the process of serving each owner, and the parties are scheduled to meet in court on Jan. 26 for a hearing in the case.

The township states in the petition that Liberty Square's articles of incorporation require each owner's mandatory membership in the complex’s homeowners' association. That means each defendant is responsible “ for maintenance of the common areas, building exteriors, including roofs of the townhome subdivision and is not only responsible for his/her own individual unit,” township attorneys contend.

A lawyer for the homeowners' association and other owners disputes that and said most of the deterioration at the complex is minor.

Each building in Liberty Square has 10 to 12 individually owned townhouses. Approximately 10 percent of the complex is still inhabited by tenants, while roughly 3-percent is owner occupied.

Joe Koenig is the resident agent of Liberty Square's homeowners' association, Grove Park Home Improvement Association. That entity owns 25 of Liberty Square’s townhouses. Koenig’s wife, Glenda Ault, is the owner of Grove Park Homes LLC, which owns 18 units. Koenig is an employee of that company. Grove Park Homes LLC used to own 81 units until the county foreclosed on them early last year.

The Washtenaw County Treasurer’s Office took over the properties and put them up for auction in late 2010, but they never sold. The township has now taken control of those units. Township attorneys state in the verified petition the foreclosure process is beginning for another 34 units. Those properties are also expected to end up in the township’s possession.


Some residences, like to one on the left, are occupied and have been maintained despite the condition of the neighboring townhouses.

Tom Perkins | For

About 40 people own the remaining properties.

Township officials say piles of garbage litter the complex and vacant townhomes they previously boarded up are broken into regularly, costing more money to re-secure.

Township attorneys note that much of the masonry, siding, windows, soffits, trim, exterior stairways, decks, porches, balconies, sidewalks, and roofs are in disrepair.

The petition alleges that the vacant properties “constitute an invitation to criminals, squatters and pose an attractive nuisance to children.”

Most of the vacant townhomes have been stripped of all scrap metal. The township also alleges that remaining residents face a number of dangers posed by the vacant units. Among those listed are mold, fire, lack of sewer service, improper electrical wiring and the possibility of squatters living in the abandoned units.

Township Attorney Dennis McClean said Liberty Square has an unusual legal entity governing it and underscored that the township is not condemning the property, but having it declared a public nuisance according to statute.

“This is not the township taking property,” he said. “The township doesn’t want this property.”

He said the township has provided additional due process for owners because of the unique situation. The township's Office of Community Standards provided owners with notice of violations on April 23 and subsequently condemned the buildings. An addendum, which is similar to a second NOV, was provided and posted on the properties in September 2010.


Some buildings in Liberty Square are almost entirely abandoned.

Tom Perkins | For

Township attorneys allege the defendants do not have the financial means to bring the complex up to code. A study by the Washtenaw County Office of Community Development estimated rehabilitating the units would cost of $75,000 to $80,000 each. The assessed value of the individual properties ranges from $3,000 to $8,000.

Attorneys are asking Circuit Court Judge Donald Shelton to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting the occupancy of any units and allowing township officials to enter and inspect each townhome. Attorneys also requested that defendants be ordered to demolish the properties within 30 days and pay any township costs associated with the lawsuit, including attorney fees and abatement expenses.

Don Darnell, a lawyer for the homeowners' association and 10 other owners, said he doesn't believe the township has presented evidence that would justify such action.

"The things that I've seen in the attachment don’t rise to the level of public nuisance," he said. "There's very minor stuff that needs repair, one building that looked like a car that hit it but that's it — everything else was very minor."

Darnell doesn't agree with the township's position that all of the owners are "one and the same" because of the ownership arrangement. He said the township is treating the units like condominiums, but they aren't condominiums, he says.

"If you were a member of the YMCA, and the YMCA did something to be sued, if you follow this logic they could sue you, too," Darnell said. "I don’t understand their reasoning. It's too big of a leap to state that individual property owners are members of the association and therefore responsible for each other and every defect in every building. I don’t see how you get there from that beginning."

Darnell said he will file a counter complaint, and he believes his clients' Fifth and 14th Amendment rights have been violated. He said the April 23 notice of violation was too vague and didn't provide specifics of what improvements individual units needed to make. He said the addendum also didn't go far enough because it named entire blocks of addresses, but not individual properties' issues.


Lawyers disagree over how serious the exterior code violations are.

Tom Perkins | For

"It's way too little, way too late," he said. "They had already condemned them all ... and some of these folks, within the last five years, spent $10,000 to $20,000 fixing up their unit. With one stroke of the brush that was wiped out."

Carolyn Chadwick, an owner/occupant at one of the townhomes, said she asked the court to postpone the hearing because she was served on Jan. 9 and has 21 days to reply. The court date is scheduled for Jan. 26 .

She said she is also filing a countersuit against the homeowners' association's board and management for breach of their fiduciary duties, which she says is at the root of the problems. She also said the township officials violated her rights by allegedly not providing sufficient notification of its intentions and only telling Koenig, not the individual property owners, of their plans. She added that she and several owners were willing to fix up the units and made some physical improvements, but the township would not work with them.

"My civil rights have been violated on several issues,” she said. “And I do not feel I'm in any danger living here whatsoever. We feel safer right now than we have in a long time.”

View Liberty Square in a larger map

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for For more Ypsilanti stories, visit our Ypsilanti page.


James Ault

Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

Andy Jacobs said: " ... the entire area must be vacated IMMEDIATELY. These people are and have been in real danger and do not understand or realize it." Your comment drips with elitism. I hope you never get elected to any office where you can force people to do what you know is good for them. average joe said: "Looking down the road, after the township gets this place leveled, who will own the property?" Good question. The property (including the large park for the resident's usage behind it) is in a prime location for a Wal-Mart or other big box store. You don't suppose that the county/township has any interest in 'forcing' things here for financial gain, do you?


Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.

HERE ARE SOME FACTS! > Unfortunately some comment's had it right. The taxpayers money is going to be wasted here by the township, especially if they have violated rights, and lose the counter-suit that has now been filed, and the punitive damages that may accompany such a loss! The township wants what they want. They should pay fair value to the owners and do the demolition themselves, rather than trample on the rights of their citizens. > The township attorney and the building department have been less than honest in relaying the facts to the township trustees. The homeowners association has not been unresponsive as Fulton, and Radsick claim. The building department, township, and their attorneys have refused to have dialogue with the homeowner's associations attorneys, have refused to issue permits to homeowners, or the association, to repair violations, or do inspections for compliance. The truth and the facts WILL come out in court. NOW IS THE TIME FOR THE TOWNSHIP TO STEP UP AND DO DAMAGE CONTROL!


Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 9:49 p.m.

HERE ARE SOME FACTS! > Each property address is deeded "fee simple" to an individual homeowner. The homeowners association doesn't have ANY ownership interest in any deeded residence, but only provides contractual services. > Township Attorney Dennis McClain has stated in the above article that the township is not condemning but rather pursuing a public nuisance. TOO LATE, in May of 2010, the township building department DID CONDEMN ALL RESIDENCES and ordered everyone out within 30-days! > Washtenaw County and Ypsilanti Twp owe over $120,000.00 in back maintenance fees, which could have been used to satisfy ALL exterior violations in their complaint. Also there is/was Federal Stimulus money available to the township, that could have been used to remedy those violations. Mike Radsick, (a township official stated there wasn't enough, I beg to differ. Check out 3115 Morris in the rear. That property is owned by the township, and is one of the worst blighted properties in the communities The township has done nothing to assist the community but drive out residents, and board them up. > Some owner occupants have lived and owned their property in this community all their lives. Some investors have spent their savings and lively-hood in this project. Many positives have happened in the last 5-years. That scares the township. That is why they are doing their dirty work NOW!~ They have violated individuals constitutional property rights, interfered with business relationships, every-ones right to due process.


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

@ Tom Perkins : It is a unique legal entity that governs Liberty Square. Attorneys on both sides said they haven't ever seen anything like this. Now even I'm scared! I'm sure hope the Judge in this case has "seen something like this" if not we may be headed to the Michigan Supreme Court of course both sets of these attorney took this case on a fee basis, so who cares? Point being I bet the Attorneys wins regardless of right or wrong they created the controversy (in it original form) that no one has seen before. I'll tell you who will lose in the end of this, it will be the "taxpayers" no matter how you slice it. This matter will no doubt go on in appeal for years, make sure you get it right the first time. I still want the exact wording of this type of ownership form. How about I suggest both parties agree to binding arbitration, then the legals fees would be less. Does anyone recall that Shakespeare saying?


Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

jondhall, these properties are "deeded, fee simple" to individual owners. The homeowners association owns NO INTEREST in any of these properties, only provides services. The association would gladly have agreed to mediation or arbitration, but the township has now destroyed many lives. You are right, the taxpayers lose, not only huge attorney fees, but also possible punitive damages in the millions if the hownowners association proves their case in the counter-suit. Joe 734-678-4877


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 9:12 p.m.

I have no dog in this fight but I do have an observation: The "Market" is supposed to provide (about) equal value for value received. But that's theoretical because, sometimes, the humans involved in transactions fail to live up to their responsibilities in that way. When failures happen, then government takes the role we gave it: it takes over and forces (eventually) a restoration of equilibrium. We've seen a lot of these failures in the wake of the deep real estate recession. When government is forced by its assigned role to intervene: we see a lot of people forgetting the above realities and bringing up complaints. Well - the only ideal solution is to correct the errors of people who create the necessity of government intervention. Lots of luck with that one. If the Market could have fixed this situation, it would have - and it didn't. The time needed to find that out plus the time government needed to enter the picture and start the corrective process = longer than anyone likes.


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

What people fail to realize is since they are all connected is that the abandoned units DO pose a significant risk to health & safety of those that remain. "Feeling" safe has nothing to do with the reality that the units nearby are fire traps, health hazards and crime havens that will never be fixed properly due to the metal already being stripped out. In this case the cancer has spread too far for too long and the entire area must be vacated IMMEDIATELY. These people are and have been in real danger and do not understand or realize it.


Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 2:42 a.m.

Hey Andy, these units were not abandoned!! There are only 3 out of 151 units that meet the criteria in the NOV (Notice of Violation) posted by the township. No one to my knowledge lived in a unit that was unsafe or unhealthy as Fulton states. trinket at 9:26 PM on January 24, 2011


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

Quit blaming the township and the property owners. The real problem is that these places are dumps and not only an eyesore but are a haven for crime and lazy individuals who don't take responsibility for anything. Condem them tear them down. I live close by and this garbage dump affects my property value and it is in all township property owners to clean up places like this and the mobile home park. I can't believe people complain when the township is trying to improve thease areas. For those people who like to live this way leave town


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

As I said earlier, I'm not against this action but will question what the rationale is since taking property is something to be taken very serious. Part of that questioning comes from the sentiment of your comment. Simply taking over a neighborhood and demolishing it because it is poor or even rundown is a scary thought. How many areas fit that subjective criteria and how many neighborhoods would you advocate torn down?

Tom Perkins

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

@Justice4all - The Ypsi Mobile Village litigation dates back several years. The Liberty Square lawsuit and the condemnation of the exteriors has been in the works for nearly a year. In both cases, the conditions are much worse now than in the past. @Jondhall - It is a unique legal entity that governs Liberty Square. Attorneys on both sides said they haven't ever seen anything like this. @average joe - Catherine McClary, the Washtenaw County Treasurer, is a defendant.

Cindy Heflin

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

I've added a more specific location and a map.


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

@jondhall--unfortunately the places where there is the most garbage/unkempt yards/housing in disrepair IS in poor or low income areas. Look at most of the areas of Detroit. I don't understand that how not having money prevents you from picking up the junk and trash in your yard. It is more of a lazyness or an "I'm used to not having to do anything, but get something for free" attitude.

average joe

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

As Justice said, this is a result of decades of doing nothing, and sadly, some (good) residents/property owners will probably be kicked out. I agree,the place is an eyesore, & something has to be done. Looking down the road, after the township gets this place leveled, who will own the property? Legally, shouldn't the owners of the remaining units get a share of the sale price when it is ultimately sold to development? After all, they took some pride in what they owned & fixed up their unit. Isn't that what the township should want all of it's residents/property owners to do? If the units were individual homes scattered about the township, would the township be taking the same action? Looking at a map, this property will someday be worth a lot of money where it's located, and I believe the current owners should be entitled to a piece of the pie.


Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

Dear Average, Right on! The 23 acres this property sits on is prime commercial estate. Washtenaw County, 60 seconds from the I-94 freeway, Rawsonville road exit. Close proximity to Detroit Metro Airport, US-23, I-275, Eastern Mich University, and University of Michigan. Looks like a "Back-door Eminant Domain Taking" to grab the property for free. Some of the owners have paid off their Mortgage and lived their all their lives. Others have invested their entire life savings into that community lately. The township isn't telling the whole story, but it will come out in the counter-suit filed against them. By the way, in the last 20 years, you can count on the fingers of one hand any action the township has taken against "the whole community" as they are now to try and address these issues. Joe, 734-678-4877

average joe

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

thinkforyourself- Great point- Since the county took over ownership of most of these units, shouldn't the county be listed as a defendant also?? I would guess that 100% of the county owed units are considered "public nuisance".


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

This property is located on grove rd just west of rawsonville rd in ypsilanti.

Chase Ingersoll

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

There are no heroes in this story. There are some villains who cut corners while trying to make a buck while the public official collected the tax revenues and passed the buck. Rarely do elected officials get serious about enforcing the laws on the books (criminal and civil nuisance law) until there is a crisis that has undermined the tax base, not only on the property in question but also that of surrounding properties.


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

So where are these places? I think I know which complex the article is talking about, but without an address or map, I can't be sure. Same with the trailer park story. Basic journalism, guys - esp. in a 700-word article.


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

Since the county Treasurer's Office has ownership of 81 of the units through foreclosure, then they are the new legal owners of those units. Have they taken care of their past and present liabilities for association fees and as owners of the majority of the units now, hold a greater responsibility for the maintenance costs? If you are going to take over a property,then you assume all of the liabilities and repsponsibilities that go with it.!


Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

dear think, Washtenaw County and township owe $120,000.00 in back maintenance fees that they refuse to pay. They have done nothing but board up properties, continue to issue violations, and spew misleading statements to the public to appear as the good guys. Visit the rear of 3115 Morris. This property is owned by the township and is the WORST case of public nuisance in the whole neighborhood. Do you think they violated themselves? Joe @ 734-678-4877 P.S. If they paid, there would be enough money to take care of all the exterior violations! Also there is, or were hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal stimulus funds available that the township chose not to make available. It wasn't part of their agenda---DEMOLITION!


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

@ Justice4all: You can be poor and of low income and still take care of yourself and your personal property, I will go out on a limb and say once again this is not about the tenants as most are tenant occupied, it is about the slum landlords and the lack of management from the management company. "Darnell doesn't agree with the township's position that all of the owners are "one and the same" because of the ownership arrangement. He said the township is treating the units like condominiums, but they aren't condominiums, he says." Also not matter what course of action was chosen in the past, that does not dictate we have to continue that way. I commend the Township for taking a pro active position. I have one question of Mr Darnell, if they are not condominiums, they are surely not houses, and they are not apartments, then are you stating they are a co operative arrangement? I certainly hope the Township Attorneys have this one right, cause I see the potential for allot of legal expenses. There is no doubt this place is an eyesore, and I for one have no desire to look at it. I would also add that this place has basically one way in and one way out, this style of layout is representative of the old "Woolman Oval" which was demolished in the 70's in Superior Township. For the tenants that might get displaced there is allot of decent housing in the Ypsilanti Township area for them to move to. I'm real interested in "What form of ownership this place has". ]

Basic Bob

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

I'm curious. are we to believe this place is 87% vacant? If that's true, it's a good indication that it is uninhabitable and should be leveled. The township government has acted cautiously (as it should), but at some point it needs to act in the best interests of the community. Abandoned buildings detract from the value of the community. The owners should be held responsible for the demolition if they are not able to maintain them properly. The vacant land can then be redeveloped or restored.


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 11:34 a.m.

Tom, one more piece to the story. What is the reason behind this and the mobile home action by the township? Decades of doing nothing then suddenly we see residents in court, forced out of homes and demolition. Not that I'm against this action or fixing the areas up, but when government starts taking over a persons property especially those who are lower income it makes me get a little nervous.


Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

Dear justice, bravo for your comment. Ypsi twp has trampled on every owners constitutional right to own property. They have also interfered with business and commerce relationships. Also, and just as important, have denied each owner the right to "DUE PROCESS" by condemning all property in may of 2010, and ordering all occupants out in 30 days without warning, right to appeal, or a court order. Joe, 734-678-4877