City sues for title to transit center land

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published July 16, 2014

 The Troy Transit Center, selected as Project of the Year by the Michigan Chapter of the American Public Works Association in the category of Structures $5-$25 million, awaits approval to open.

The Troy Transit Center, selected as Project of the Year by the Michigan Chapter of the American Public Works Association in the category of Structures $5-$25 million, awaits approval to open.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Troy has asked a judge for a second time to award the Troy Transit Center land to the city.

The city of Troy filed eminent domain proceedings in the Oakland County Circuit Court against Grand Sakwa July 10, after informal talks between Gary Sakwa and Troy Mayor Dane Slater stalled and Grand Sakwa did not accept the city’s offer of $1.05 million for the property.

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said that Grand Sakwa has 21 days in which to challenge the case, after which time the city would ask for Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Leo Bowman for an order.

“We’ve not yet come to a settlement,” Grigg Bluhm said. “We’re certainly open to discuss a settlement.”

Grand Sakwa attorney Alan Greene could not be reached for comment.

Developer Grand/Sakwa Properties 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 — also required that the city fund the center within 10 years of the date of judgment, which the Appeals Court ruled never happened.

On Feb. 21, Bowman denied the city’s request for title of the land.

Grigg Bluhm explained that the judge dismissed the case, in which Troy filed eminent domain to take the property without consent of Grand Sakwa in the interest of the public for the transit center, without prejudice, which allowed the city, with approval from the City Council, to file proceedings with the court at a later date.

The council in April unanimously authorized the city to tender Grand Sakwa an offer of $1.05 million, based on an appraisal, and to move forward with eminent domain proceedings if the offer was rejected. The $1.05 million offer for the property would qualify for reimbursement from the Federal Transportation Administration. The Federal Rail Administration has approved funding of $8.4 million, not including the $1.05 million for the land.

City Engineer Steve Vandette said the construction work on the transit center was complete in late October. The transit center includes the 2,000-square-foot building with waiting area and public restrooms, an elevator, a 90-foot pedestrian bridge from the building to the tracks, a crash wall, enhancements to the Amtrak platform, slips for taxis and buses, and designated parking on the Troy side. 

The Amtrak lease was expected to cover maintenance costs, which were not available at press time.  

“We’d like to get this settled before the city would enter into a lease agreement with Amtrak,” said Grigg Bluhm.

The construction cost of the transit center, not including the $1.05 million, is $6.6 million.

“It’s best we let the process proceed,” Slater said. “We’re always open to trying to resolve it. We have to proceed in court if it’s the only alternative we have. You just have to let the process run its course.”