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Published: Saturday, 8/14/2004

Mobile-home park developer loses appeal

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a 2001 court decision that stopped a Livonia-based mobile home park developer from building a disputed new park off Dean Road in Temperance.

But the "slam-dunk" decision favoring Bedford Township and two residents of the Mohawk Trails subdivision over Germano Management also potentially re-exposes the township to some of the liability it had originally tried to avoid.

"The bottom line is that there's not going to be a mobile home park on Dean Road," an ecstatic township Treasurer Sherri Meyer said yesterday when told of the decision.

"The people that live around there are happy, I'm happy, and if there are things that still need to be worked out, we'll do that," she said.

The decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld all of the 2001 findings of Lenawee County Circuit Court Judge Harvey Koselka, who was assigned the case in 1993 after Monroe County's judges recused themselves.

Zora Johnson, the Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based attorney for Germano Management in the case, did not return a call seeking comment yesterday.

The dispute between Germano and Bedford Township began when the developer first applied for permission in 1993 to expand his Inverness "Too" Mobile Home Park along Smith Road by approximately 11 acres.

The township board rejected the request in June, 1993, and Germano filed suit a few months later.

As the trial began in June, 1995, a settlement agreement was negotiated wherein the township agreed to the Inverness expansion, and Germano agreed to pay the township's legal fees and drop its damage claim.

That agreement was then sealed and kept secret.

But four paragraphs of the sealed settlement agreement were intended to force the township board to alter its master plan after Germano identified a new site in a spe-

cific geographic area for a new mobile home park, dubbed the "future property."

Altering the master plan would clear a major hurdle toward winning rezoning, and Germano had five years to find land suitable for a new park.

Two days before the deadline, the township received a letter from Germano identifying the property, a 46.6-acre farm owned by Eugene McNett along West Dean Road, just west of the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks.

When details of the sealed settlement leaked out, it set off a firestorm from local residents of the nearby Mohawk Trails subdivision.

The township rejected the McNett property as fitting the terms outlined in the settlement agreement and returned to Judge Koselka, who said the township was wrong to do so.

But after two Mohawk Trails residents intervened and claimed that the settlement provisions disenfranchised them and the township claimed its legislative authority had been improperly stripped by a previous board, Judge Koselka removed the four offending paragraphs and left the remainder of the agreement intact.

The appellate court's ruling did, however, "remand the case for further proceedings, including the reinstatement of the portions of [Germano's] complaint resolved by the provisions of the consent judgment we find to be void." The sentence has the potential to open the township or its insurance carrier to liability, which Ms. Johnson had claimed in an earlier filing was in excess of $500,000.

Paul Lynch, one of two Mohawk Trails residents who entered the case as cross-plaintiffs in 2001, said the appellate court's decision was a "slam dunk" that kept a mobile home park from being built right next to him and his neighbors.

"This is a big-time victory. The only thing [Germano] can do now is go to the Supreme Court, and that means big bucks," Mr. Lynch said. "It's been a long haul waiting for this decision, but everybody's been working together on this and I think everybody will be happy."

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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