Dec 15, 2022 - Business

Scoop: Moroun family settles outstanding blight tickets with city

Illustrated collage of Detroit

Photo illustration: Jacob Boomsma; Aïda Amer/Axios

The city has agreed to accept $50,000 to settle the outstanding blight and inspection fees associated with nearly 2,000 properties owned by the Moroun family.

Why it matters: The settlement could be a model for Detroit's large landowners to comply with maintenance rules.

State of play: Detroit's process for protesting and resolving blight tickets — violations for breaking property maintenance code — is particularly time-consuming when it comes to large property owners with the resources to exercise all available appeals.

  • Properties have historically fallen into further disrepair during the appeals process.
  • The city could not provide a total figure for outstanding fees because it was not feasible to review each violation, Conrad Mallett, who runs the city's law department, tells Axios.

What they're saying: Mallett says the settlement isn't a "sweetheart deal," but a way to address the city's blight more efficiently.

  • "We've got to get this s*** under control," he says of the city's blight. "It's embarrassing."
  • "We negotiated in good faith and achieved a good result."

Details: Signed Nov. 3, the agreement covers 1,023 tax parcels, 808 vacant lots and 10 sites ripe for demolition.

  • It required Crown to pay a recurring fee of $12,776 for property inspections plus a $50,000 global settlement for outstanding fees, fines and invoices.
  • The deal includes provisions for ongoing property maintenance and compliance with city codes.
  • The recurring fee is to be paid every two years for the duration of the deal, which the city can renegotiate or extend until either side has termination rights in 2027.

Between the lines: The agreement is unrelated to the city's ongoing negotiations with another Moroun-owned company, Hercules Concrete, over a piece of riverfront land, Mallett says.

What they're saying: A Crown representative could not be reached for comment.

The other side: Gregg Ward, president of Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry and a frequent critic of the Morouns, tells Axios the settlement treats "wealthy, white suburban landowners" better than average citizens.

  • "Side deals for those with political leverage and significant legal resources create confusion and opportunities for misconduct," Ward says.

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