Detroit City Council votes no on land transfer with Morouns

To the relief of some residents of southwest Detroit, the city council voted Wednesday against entering into a 2015 agreement with the Detroit International Bridge Co.

The deal included swapping a three-acre piece of Riverside Park in southwest Detroit from the city for five acres of land adjacent to the park owned by the bridge company and up to $ 5 million for improvements and expansions to the park. However, local residents raised concerns about community services which were not included in the negotiations, and nearly 500 area residents signed a petition against the relocation.

“It is important to emphasize that when we talk about this deal, it is often pointed out that it is an urban park and an urban estate without considering the people in the host area who will have to live with the effects of this agreement,” said Councilor Raquel Castañeda-López said while calling on the other council members to vote no.

The additional land acquired by the Moroun family’s bridge company, which owns the Ambassador Bridge, was to be used to build another, possibly wider, bridge to Canada.

The Detroit International Bridge Co. did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

Dozens of residents spoke ahead of the council’s vote, many of whom took the opportunity to speak to the council to express their opposition to the land transfer and to encourage council members to vote against it.

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“The city should take the same approach as the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which means that no city-owned land will be transferred to the developer until community benefits are negotiated and signed,” said Ben Ratner, a Southwest resident.

Other residents have spoken out in favor of the land transfer, citing the development of the park to date and its effects on the residents.

During the discussion, City Council President Brenda Jones questioned the need for the council to approve the land transfer when the panel had approved in 2015. Since the city is banned from swapping parking lots for commercial or development purposes, Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia said.

“We have promised to use reasonable efforts to complete the transaction under the agreement,” said Garcia. “If we don’t keep our promises, we can be sued, and that’s called breach of contract.

“I would not take any chances on how we will fare in this lawsuit, it is not appropriate for a lawyer to do that … But I tell you what I would say to my son: It is not right to make your promises break.”

The council voted against completing the land transfer by 4-3 votes, losing the $ 2 million park development project. Council members Raquel Castañeda-López, Mary Sheffield, Brenda Jones and James Tate voted against the agreement.

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