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Dispute Delays Redevelopment Of Ex-Prison Sites

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PLYMOUTH TWP. (AP) - Plans to develop 500 acres of suburban Detroit land into a technology business and retail district have been stalled amid a property dispute with the Motor City.

The Wayne County communities of Northville Township and Plymouth Township are developing property they own to complete the project, which officials say could create thousands of jobs, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“We’re trying to work through this with everybody,” said Northville Township Supervisor Robert Nix.

Plans call for using former Detroit House of Corrections farmland in Plymouth Township, the Robert Scott Correctional Facility in Northville Township and land in between. It would include Plymouth Township property acquired through a Wayne County tax foreclosure sale in 2011.

The City of Detroit, however, said the 190 acres shouldn’t have been included in the sale. The ownership dispute has been tied up in court, delayed in part by Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, but could move toward a resolution soon.

“This is our property, and we’ll defend it vigorously,” said Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, Detroit’s corporation counsel.

The issue became a court fight after Plymouth Township resident Richard Sharland, a retired farmer, questioned the sale because it was affecting a friend who had farmed the land under a rental agreement with the City of Detroit.

“The City of Detroit residents should be concerned that they had money taken away from them. They can use the money better than Plymouth Township can here,” Sharland said.

Meanwhile, Northville Township officials uncovered a potential problem with their ownership of the Robert Scott Correctional Facility, purchased from the state for $1 in 2012. The state or Detroit could exercise claims on the property if it’s not developed for a public purpose.

Officials had hoped the parcel would be a mixed-use development, perhaps including upscale retail and research and technology companies. Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume expressed frustration with the complications in the development plans.

“What we’re proposing is something that’s a benefit for all of Wayne County,” Reaume said, and that includes the City of Detroit.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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