Detroit council delays land swap vote; plan faces suit
— The City Council on Tuesday postponed its decision on a proposed land deal with Wayne County that would help pave the way for Dan Gilbert to build a $520 million criminal justice complex on city-owned land near Interstate 75 and Warren.
The decision came just a few hours after a resident filed a lawsuit against Detroit to stop officials from authorizing the deal which would give the county 11 acres of city-owned Department of Transportation property on Warren Avenue in exchange for the shuttered American Motors Corp. headquarters on Detroit’s west side.
Nicholas Miller, who lives three blocks from the site and has organized residents against the plan, filed the complaint Tuesday morning in Wayne County Circuit Court, alleging the jail would disrupt his quality of life and cause a “considerable loss in property value.”
Miller is asking the city be required to complete a traffic and air quality study before approving the swap. The city, Miller contends, has a “statutory duty” to protect his property when approving land use changes.
For example, the lawsuit points out the Department of Environmental Affairs hasn’t completed an emissions study despite the Warren Avenue area facing high rates of asthma related to the Detroit Incinerator. It also says city code requires a mitigation plan if a proposed project will create traffic issues.
Mayor Mike Duggan and council members also are named as defendants in the lawsuits.
After debate, council members tabled the swap plan until a formal session Nov. 21.
Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland acknowledged prior to delaying the measure to next week that “there’s no perfect deal.” After, Leland said he wants to ensure residents’ concerns are addressed.
“I know that there are logistical concerns that I’m needing a little bit more information on before I vote next Tuesday to make sure that the community is not given a raw deal,” Leland said.
The swap is a key piece to the proposal by Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans Inc., to build the jail on the DDOT property under the condition that Wayne County acquires the land from the city.
During public comment Tuesday, Miller told the council that he’s concerned about the impact of the proposed facility on neighborhoods and the nearby Golightly Education Center.
“I really don’t understand how this has moved forward so quickly,” he said. “... It’s not a place for a county courthouse. That’s really what it boils down to.”
Miller said his lawsuit was filed in an effort to force the city to “follow proper steps for rezoning” the site.
“My argument is this is not a government purpose of the city. It’s a government purpose for the county,” he said.
Some council members support the plan, but most said they want more time to vet it.
Councilman George Cushingberry said he doesn’t think the jail will be a safety issue for the neighborhood and that the city could reroute traffic to address any concerns with schools.