State Supreme Court denies Troy transit center appeal

From Crain’s Detroit Business:

Troy-transit-center-crainsTroy officials expect to present an offer today to reacquire the city’s transit center site from Farmington Hills-based Grand/Sakwa Properties LLC for $550,000 after the Michigan Supreme Court turned away its latest appeal in the long-running land dispute.

The high court this week denied Troy’s application for leave to appeal a May decision that the 2.7 acres of the transit center property had reverted from city ownership to Grand/Sakwa.

Monday night, the Troy City Council authorized City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm to offer $550,000 after obtaining appraisals on the site — and to pursue condemnation should the developer reject that offer. Bluhm said today the city expects to present the offer today, but the company would likely need some time to review and respond to it.

Gary Sakwa, co-founder and managing partner of Grand/Sakwa, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Alan Greene, partner at Dykema Gossett PLLC and attorney for Grand/Sakwa, also could not be immediately reached.

At issue is an agreement for Grand/Sakwa to transfer title in 2001 on 2.7 acres near Maple Road and Coolidge Highway, where most of the transit center construction has been taking place.

The terms of that sale called for the land to revert to Grand/Sakwa in 10 years if the city hadn’t funded a transit center project by then; the city and company had conflicting definitions in court of what that term meant once the deadline came.

Bluhm said the city obtained permission from the Federal Transit Administration earlier today to add the acquisition cost to its budget for the transit center. The FTA previously authorized $1.6 million in funding toward the transit center cost.

“We’re about ready to go forward (with the offer). As of just a few minutes ago, today, we’ve got permission to go ahead with submitting that expense, since all federal funding for the project comes on a reimbursement basis,” she said.

The city hopes to get a response from Grand/Sakwa by early December, Bluhm said. Grand/Sakwa agreed to sell a portion of its 77-acre development for $1 more than a decade ago to develop the transit center, which broke ground last November.

Troy and neighboring Birmingham had secured several funding commitments from federal and other sources for the center, with a preliminary estimated cost of about $8.5 million, which the City Council reduced in 2012 to about $6.4 million.

Birmingham withdrew from the project in 2011. Grand/Sakwa contended that the project didn’t reach full funding in time, as the consent judgment requires, and sought to revert the property.

A three-judge appellate panel overturned the Circuit Court and ruled in Grand/Sakwa’s favor last May, prompting Troy to ask the Supreme Court to review it, but the high court is not legally obligated to hear the case.

Mark Miller, director of economic and community development for Troy, and Bluhm both said the transit center construction was substantially completed earlier this year except for a minor “punch list” of modifications. But the city is still finalizing a lease agreement for the National Railroad Passenger Corp., or Amtrak, to service the transit center.