On June 11, the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival featured a rousing opening set from roots and blue grass band Dragon Wagon.
Dragon Wagon was joined on...read more
I am writing to address the issue of the burnt-out shell of the Thompson Block in Depot Town.
The owner of this property, Stewart Beal, has recently initiated a lawsuit against the City of Ypsilanti, but so far has failed to serve it on the City. Until contacted by AnnArbor.com, city officials were not aware of this lawsuit. But when a reporter asked about it after Council met last Tuesday, the City Manager looked into the reported complaint.
This reporter said Mr. Beal had given a “press conference” and had apparently given a copy of the complaint to the press but had not yet seen fit to serve a copy to the City. Beal also addressed the "court of public opinion" with a recent letter imploring support of his continued encroachment on the city's sidewalks and streets in Depot Town with the buttresses that are the only thing holding up the walls of the fire-gutted building.
Recently, Council voted 4-3 against another long-term extension of Beal’s encroachment on city streets and sidewalks. Murdock, Richardson, Robb and Bodary voted against a renewal of the extension and Nickels, Swanson-Winston and Schreiber voted to extend it thru November, 2010.
Specifically Beal’s complaint alleges that City Council abused its discretion by not approving a proposed agreement with Mr. Beal for a prolonged extension of a Right of Way Permit (ROWP). One part of the complaint asks that the court enter a writ of mandamus. This is an historical writ to order a public official to do or not do something required.
It is important to remember that City Council is elected by the people to uphold the laws of the state and the city and to protect the interests of the public. Immediately after the fire, the city manager approved an initial Traffic Control Order (TCO). This was done on an emergency basis for safety purposes to shore up the buildings walls from collapse and in part to allow time to determine if what was left of the building could be saved. There was also an ongoing arson investigation by the state.
Council later approved another extension of the TCO at Mr. Beal’s request. At this time City Council requested a definite plan of action to be presented by Mr. Beal. At the end of the approved extension, no satisfactory plan of action or agreement was forthcoming.
Mr. Beal again requested another extension of the TCO and Council declined to approve this. Even though the TCO has expired, Mr. Beal’s shoring materials continue to obstruct the city street right-of-way and impeding traffic, both of which are contrary to city ordinances.
Mr. Beal, under specific questioning from City Council, stated that the only way his contractors could find to save these partial facades was to construct a building within the building. His estimates were approximately $2 million for this, but he stated he had no prospects for funding this project.
Mr. Beal also complains that the city abused its discretion by failure to grant a Right of Way Permit (ROWP). This matter was included in the proposal that City Council did not approve. The suit claims that Mr. Beal cannot remove the obstruction without an ROWP. This argument is disingenuous for two reasons:
a) A ROWP is not required to remove a road obstruction, and
b) he has never applied for a ROWP to remove the obstruction.
Mr. Beal also claims that the city abused its discretion by not granting a building permit. Apparently he has applied for a permit and one has not been granted because of the fact he has not submitted a plan of action. Mr. Beal claims he cannot remove the street obstruction without a building permit. This is simply not true.
Retrospectively in this matter, the city has attempted to work things out with Mr. Beal, despite his claims to the contrary. For example, at the time of the fire the City had authority to knock down the standing wall because it posed a serious safety hazard to both pedestrians and drivers. Instead, the City tried to work with Mr. Beal in good faith and allowed him to erect temporary supports, giving him a TCO and granting an extension of the original TCO to give him time to develop a reconstruction plan and timeline for completion of the work. He has not done this.
Mr. Beal is attempting to influence public opinion to his point of view. He is implying that he will present signatures supporting his views to the Court of Judge Donald Shelton, who will be hearing the suit.
The facts are that Mr. Beal is infringing on the right-of-way belonging to the citizens of the City and has been legally ordered to vacate. Many businesses are negatively impacted by the traffic closure and it’s important to note that the city’s summer festivals are quickly approaching.
Mr. Beal’s past records indicate his frequent failure to honor his timetables and comply with city ordinances in other matters. This includes Mr. Beal’s failure to meet several safety and building ordinances on the Thompson building even prior to the fire, until forced to do so by city enforcement.
City Council, Ward 2
City of Ypsilanti, Mich.
Beal develops three-point plan to defend Thompson Block