Trustee Janet Leslie’s accusations are unfounded, disturbing, offensive and slanderous to say the least. The email she referenced was almost two years after the township was deeded the property, and after the courts affirmation that it is the township taxpayers' property.
All along, Trustee Leslie has been a part of the business on this property, including written legal opinions, discussions with the board and its legal staff, and initial decisions made by the board on how to use $428,000 of federal funding through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program allotted for the township to purchase foreclosed and vacant properties for public use or improvement and resale.
For Trustee Leslie to even suggest that she was never part of any discussions for the use of the property which included an offer to purchase the Smiths interest in the property is absurd. It was her responsibility as a trustee to understand all the aspects of the business of the township that were presented to the board.
With assistance from Oakland County Community and Home Improvement Department, each foreclosed property in the township was reviewed for possible purchase with the federal grant. The PPH Bank property, formally owned by the Smiths, was one of the properties that we reviewed. The property would have met the criteria for purchase except the county later determined it wasn’t, because the Smiths moved from the house to a tent on a portion of the property. Therefore, it was not considered foreclosed and vacant – just foreclosed.
As with many foreclosures, there are usually the issues of blight left behind by the previous owners. This was the issue with the former Smith property. Officer Welsh contacted the courts to see if they could do anything about the blight on property as a part of the final bank eviction procedure, instead of using township resources and funds. The 10-acres was cleaned up by the court with exception of a partially buried semi-trailer that could not be moved at the time.
During the bank eviction, it was determined that the house was in dangerous condition along with some other buildings on the property. A letter was sent to the property address and to the bank. The Smiths received the letter and later came to my office to discuss the matter with me. They agreed, in writing, that the home was dangerous. The dangerous building hearings were never scheduled because the Smiths suggested that they still had open issues with the bank, and the building inspector and I, as the building and zoning administrator, decided we would not pursue the matter until the Smiths could resolve those issues with the bank.
Why the bank gifted the property to the township still remains only pure speculation, but I can guarantee it was not due to excessive enforcement.
The township has been as respectful and understanding as it possibly could be under the circumstances. It was the Smiths' choice to move with their children to illegally occupy property owned by the taxpayers of Holly Township. It is a very unfortunate situation in which they have placed themselves, their children, and the township.
The entire matter surrounding the Smiths' litigation has never gone without great thought, consideration and compassion for what the Smith family continues to go through. As always, we as township officials, have worked diligently to ensure that we followed procedures to the letter of the law.
Karin S. Winchester, CMC