Troy, Grand Sakwa settle suit on transit center property cost

From The Troy Sentinel:

Photo by Larry Sobczak
Photo by Larry Sobczak

While the city and Grand Sakwa Properties have settled on the cost of the property that the Troy Multi-Modal Transit Center sits on, who will reimburse the city for the additional cost is not yet clear.

While the city paid Grand/Sakwa $3.1 million Sept. 3 and the lawsuit was dismissed, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Leo Bowman must sign the final order dismissing the case, which had not been filed at press time.

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg-Bluhm explained that the matter was decided by case evaluation, a procedure in which three attorneys put a value on a case, which both parties accepted.

Bowman signed an order Aug. 15, 2014, giving the city the title to the land and requiring the city to pay developer Grand Sakwa Properties $1.07 million, based on a land appraisal.

Grand Sakwa had donated 2.7 acres of the total 77-acre mixed-use commercial and residential property at Maple and Coolidge to the city of Troy on the condition that Troy would develop the land for use as a transportation center. The consent agreement — dated June 2, 2000 — required that the city fund the center within 10 years of the date of judgment, which the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled never happened.

Last summer, Alan Greene, attorney for Grand Sakwa, said Grand Sakwa did not believe $1.07 million to be a proper number.

The transit center grand opening was Oct. 15, 2014.

The case evaluation award that the city must pay was set at $4.15 million, which includes all costs, including Grand Sakwa’s attorney fees and the land value. The city paid the $1.07 million to Grand Sakwa last summer to gain title of the land.

Grigg-Bluhm said that based on a trial court decision on Michigan condemnation law, the city and Grand Sakwa were required to value the property to include the transit center structure, rather than the vacant parcel.

Greene could not be reached for further comment before press time.

The 2,000-square-foot transit center building has a waiting area and public restrooms, an elevator, a 90-foot pedestrian bridge from the building to the tracks, a crash wall, platform enhancements, designated parking on the Troy side, and slips for taxis and buses, although the  Suburban Mobility for Regional Transportation bus schedule does not include a stop at the transit center at this point.

Under the terms of a Federal Rail Administration Grant, the FRA has the right to demand reimbursement of the $6.62 million cost of the transit center if it is not operated for at least 20 years. If the center was  to be abandoned, the city could be disqualified from any further federal transportation grants, Grigg-Bluhm said.

The city will work with the FRA, the Federal Transit Administration, the Michigan Department of Transportation and SMART for reimbursement of the settlement amount.

“The city does intend to seek all available federal funding,” Grigg-Bluhm said.

She noted that funding is available through the FTA and the FRA, and that the city needs to go through procedural steps to seek it.

The terms of a 20-year lease agreement with Amtrak stipulate that the city perform all necessary maintenance on the center and cover operating expenses, for which Amtrak will reimburse the city 100 percent.

“I’m very confident when all is said and done that Troy taxpayers will not have to pay for a federally funded project,” said Troy Mayor Dane Slater.

“We didn’t dip into the reserves,” Slater said of the $3.1 million payment. “We can use the transit center. It belongs to the city. It (the lawsuit) is over, which is very good. My goal is that Troy taxpayers will not pay for a federally funded project. I’m very optimistic.”