St. Clair ShoresJuly 6, 2012
City takes on tax-foreclosed properties
By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer
Aiming to keep properties out of the hands of real estate speculators, City Council once again voted to buy properties that have reverted back to Macomb County for unpaid taxes.
The 26 available parcels included 15 homes, seven vacant lots, three condominium units and one commercial property — the former Citgo gas station on Harper Avenue, between 12 Mile and 13 Mile roads.
City Manager Ben Hughes said city staff is able to view the properties from the outside before making the decision, but cannot enter the buildings. All 26 properties have to be bought by the city or refused as a package; the city cannot “cherry-pick” the best properties to take on. The total cost for the properties was $255,732.
Nevertheless, “our recommendation, as staff, would be to essentially move forward and accept these properties,” Hughes said.
“This is a way for the city to take control of the housing stock,” said Councilman Chris Vitale. “By us owning those homes first, we get to clean them up. This is our opportunity to clear some of this stuff up before it becomes a further cancer on the neighborhood.”
Hughes said most of the homes can be rehabilitated and sold to improve the neighborhood. Those deemed not worth renovation would be torn down, he said. The empty lots would not be sold until the economy improves, he said.
“In today’s economy, it makes good, logical sense for us to hold on to the lots. Maybe they would be more marketable in a better economy,” he said.
The gas station, he said, will be torn down and marketed for redevelopment.
“There are a lot of gas stations there,” he said.
City Attorney Robert Ihrie said he checked with the state and was told that the city is exempt from paying for the cleanup of any potential leak or toxicity on the gas station site.
He said any potential purchaser will have a baseline environmental assessment done and will not be responsible for previous toxicity, either. That responsibility technically rests with the previous owner.
But Councilman Chris Vitale said the city should be proactive with the property.
“If we don’t … clean this property up, then who comes along and cleans it up?” he said. “It can sit there for 10 years and not get cleaned up and leach into the soil. No private investor’s just going to do it out of the goodness of their heart.”
Council unanimously decided to purchase the properties and will also put forth a new request for proposal from local Realtors to list the properties.
“This is a chance for us to do something good for the neighborhoods,” Vitale said. “This is something we can afford to do right now. I think this is money invested wisely.”
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