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Posted on Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti Township puts pressure on owner to demolish abandoned gas station at Rawsonville and Grove roads

By Tom Perkins


The former gas station at Rawsonville and Grove roads.

Courtesy of Ypsilanti Township

Ypsilanti Township officials are requesting the owner of a long-abandoned gas station at the corner of Rawsonville and Grove roads tear down a canopy they say is in danger of collapsing. They are also asking the owner to tear down or address blight issues on the main building.

But the owner and his attorney said they have already addressed some of the township's concerns and said their own engineer found that the structure is safe and not in danger of collapse.

At its meeting last week, the Township Board of Trustees authorized staff to take legal action if necessary, but underscored that they want to work with the owners, Troy-based Ypsilanti-Grove Development LLC, to address the issues instead of going to court.


Officials say the former gas station poses a safety risk.

Courtesy of Ypsilanti Township

On Oct. 4, Ypsilanti-Grove was served an order to demolish the structure at 3360 South Grove Road within 30 days or face possible legal action.

Township building inspectors contend the canopy is in imminent danger of collapsing. According to building inspectors, some of the canopy’s columns have deteriorated at their base, the canopy is twisting in some areas and the beams are disconnecting from their footings.

Photos show that some of the beams have deteriorated so badly that it's possible to see through the holes in the steel supports.

Building Director Ron Fulton said some portions of the canopy are no longer supported by steel beams at all but by drainage pipes leading to underground drainage. He said the northeast portion of the canopy has begun to collapse and has deflected 9-12 inches.


Some of the beams have deteriorated so badly that it's possible to see through the holes in the steel supports.

Courtesy of Ypsilanti Township

“As I stated previously; when you look up definition of ‘imminent collapse’, you will see a picture of 3360 Grove Road. That’s how strong I will state my conviction,” Fulton told the Board. “I’m not sure how or when it will collapse, but possibly this winter with snow or ice on it.”

Michael Hamblin, an attorney representing Ypsilanti-Grove, said the company's engineer found that the canopy is structurally sound. He told the board that photographs of rusted out beams only showed metal wraps around beams that are there for aesthetic purposes and there actually four inch steel beams inside those wrappings. The canopy is not in danger of collapsing and is “well-secured,” Hamblin said.

That assertion drew scoffs from township officials. Fulton said the four-inch steel beams were really galvanized metal drainage pipes leading from the roof to the ground. Supervisor Brenda Stumbo pointed at the picture of the rusted out beam and said it was “ridiculous” to say that the canopy was structurally sound.

Hamblin also said his client had taken down parts of a sign that appeared dangerous and pointed to a neighboring property’s sign that he said appeared more dangerous than his client’s. After comparing the gas station with a neighboring property’s signage several times, Hamblin was instructed by Stumbo to concentrate on his own property.

Hamblin said he and his client tried to meet with building inspectors at the site but were unable to find a time. He said they were then told by Township Attorney Doug Winters that they could no longer communicate directly with the building inspectors and must go through the legal department.

He said that type of action of was premature because Ypsilanti-Grove was working to resolve the issues.

“If there is anything structurally unsafe, we are willing what we to do whatever we should do to fix it,” Hamblin said. “This is an opportunity to work with a developer who hasn’t found the right option to develop (the gas station). He has maintained the property, paid taxes, certainly didn’t buy it for letting it sit idle.”

The owner confirmed to the board that he bought the property more than five years ago and it was abandoned at the time. He said he was in negotiations with Taco Bell for four years before they opened a location across the street. He said he has also been in discussions with CVS and Chase Bank, but nothing has panned out.

Hamblin argued that the building is valuable and tearing it down would make the property less valuable for the developer. But Fulton pointed out that Ypsilanti-Grove has been in front of the Township's Board of Review arguing that the property is worth less than its assessed value and asking for their taxes to be lowered.

"These very people who are arguing that these buildings are sound and valuable are the same ones who have argued their building is worthless and their taxes should be reduced. You can't have it both ways," Fulton said.

Township officials questioned why there is a need for the canopy when there is a deed restriction legally precluding another gas station from being built. Because the property has been abandoned for over 30 days and is no longer used as a gas station or suitable for use as a gas station, it is considered blighted under township ordinance.

Fulton said some of the sign may have been taken apart, but Ypsilanti-Grove ignored the part of the ordinance that spells out that entire signs - including its base - must be removed on abandoned properties.

Winters said the photographs of the building’s deterioration spoke for themselves.

“I don’t think people in Troy would accept this as being a development they would like to see on one of their main corridors, and neither would the people of Ypsilanti Township,” he said. “If you’re going to be a stakeholder in this community then you need to step up to the plate and address the issues as if it was in your own backyard.”

Hamblin maintained that the company has been trying to work with the township building inspectors but was “blocked.”

“I think it’s unnecessary that we need to be here today,” he said. “We certainly don’t want an unsafe structure. If the canopy is collapsing, of course we don’t want that to happen. If there’s a difference of opinion between engineers, then let’s have a meeting at the site.”



Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.

This building is an eye sore and needs to be taken down. However, it is a complete joke that township officials would take such an intolerant stance when just last week they were ordered by Judge Shelton to begin tearing down Liberty Square or be held in contempt of court. This is after a long court battle to get control of the property because of how poor the conditions of the buildings were. Once they got control and forced everyone out, they are just sitting on it while the exteriors are being stripped, while the interiors are being stripped, and even the manhole covers have all been stolen. Liberty Square is much more important property than that old gas station. Can't we get some new people running this township?


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

That building isn't suitable for a taco bell or a bank. Why don't they just tear the whole building down? It's been an eyesore for years. Please dont' abandon your junky buildings in our community!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 8:59 p.m.

In Ann Arbor there is an old gas station building on North Main at Summit Street that has been abandoned for over 25 years. The city of A2 still has done nothing to have it removed. Maybe because it is owned by a church in Ypsilanti?


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:45 p.m.

This is the point I was making on another article. Ann Arbor cannot get its blank together to tear a house down and yet here Ypsi township is in the thick of things telling another homeowner or owner to get this thing torn down. Great job Ypsi Township. Ann Arbor needs to take a lesson in responsibility.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:53 p.m.

Now about that mess at McCarthy and Lakeview.....


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

Of course this isn't the only property in the township that needs to be addressed. That's a no brainer. But I think the township officials are on the right track. They are given the onus to look at properties and their potential to be redeveloped. This is a prime location and really does stand in the way of progress. It would be nice to see a Chipotle Grill or White Castle/Church's Ckicken in that spot. Wish I had the capital to put there.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

Absolutely "White Castle/Church's Chicken" ...uhh I mean ckicken...LOL! Some may not agree..but...that would be a serious money maker. Since the area is already affectionately called "hamburger hill" it would be a good fit in my opinion.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

White Castle???


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

"Photos show that some of the beams have deteriorated so badly that it's possible to see through the holes in the steel supports. " "As I stated previously; when you look up definition of 'imminent collapse', you will see a picture of 3360 Grove Road." "He told the board that photographs of rusted out beams only showed metal wraps around beams ." "Winters said the photographs of the building's deterioration spoke for themselves. " Seem pretty obvious bit of reporting, don't 'ya think? BTW, I DID look in the dictionary, and there was no picture of 3360 Grove Road, much less one that speaks for itself.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 2:29 a.m.

Took guts to get that close to a structural beam that is ready to collapse? Good job getting the photo and knock on wood you made it out alive. I'd love to see that thing collapse, in the middle of the nite mind you, no one around and then it has to be torn out. Keep the pressure on Ypsi Township.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

The article explains the seemingly rusted column as a downspout attached to the steel column. The structure is indeed a column and not a beam.

Julie Baker

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

We've added photos that were provided by Ypsilanti Township.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

This problem is NOT unique to Ypsilanti Township. Larger cities have had to deal with abandoned houses and buildings for years. It is time to get tough on this issue. Either a building has to be serviceable or be torn down. NO building should be idle indefinitely. It is time to all forms of government up to and including Lansing to deal with this. This is a health and safety and community environmental issue. Abandoned buildings or those allowed to languish such as the Maroun fiasco being the former train station in Detroit need to be dealt with expediently.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

Check out the business at the corner of McCarthy and Lakeview in Ypsi Township on Google maps. What is all of that stuff north of the building? Is there toxic waste in there? It's adjacent to a residential area. It's not just the abandoned buildings that are a problem, it's the existing businesses too.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

When I look at this on Google maps, I see something that isn't nearly as unsightly as many other buildings, and their surroundings around the area. I'm not saying it should not be addressed but this huge article and all of the fuss seem to be a bit of overkill. Aren't there more important issues out there? At least they didn't leave tons of litter, barrels and old broken down vehicles.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:54 p.m.

This is obviously a thinly veiled attempt by the windsheild repair industry to get more space to set up their operations on the weekends. It's sad that they have Township officials eating out of their hands. ;-)


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

There ought o be a law....hahaha. There is no good excuse for allowing investors to prolong urban blight and unsafe conditions. Get them to clean up this mess now.

Paprika Z

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

FYI, beams are horizontal structural support members; columns are vertical. These terms are not interchangeable.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

Well excuse the heck outta me Mr Dodger...LOL I think it's nitt pickin' cuz someone wants to make themselves sound like a smarty pants...

Roger Dodger

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 8 p.m.

This is value being added. Some of us prefer proper terminology when describing issues.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

This post is why we should have a "dislike" button! What ever happened to "value added" comments?