Government, Law, and Real Estate

Judge dismisses suit over sale of tax-foreclosed properties

December 9, 2013
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City agrees to sell properties to land bank
The Kent County Land Bank Authority buys tax-foreclosed properties and sells them to buyers who meet the agency’s redevelopment conditions. Photo via fb.com

For the second time in two years, a Kent County Circuit Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the sale of tax-foreclosed properties to the Kent County Land Bank Authority.

17th Circuit Court Judge George Buth ruled against 11 plaintiffs in the local residential real estate industry, who charged that last summer’s sale of 162 properties by the city of Grand Rapids to the land bank violated state law. The complaint was filed on July 19.

Buth dismissed a similar suit in December 2012, by primarily the same group of plaintiffs, when they sued Kent County for selling 44 tax-foreclosed properties to the land bank in July of that year.

This time, the plaintiffs sued the city, KCLBA and Kent County Treasurer Ken Parrish. A year earlier, they brought suit against the county, the land bank and Parrish.

“That case was decided by Judge Buth on Friday,” said Dan Ophoff, county corporate counsel. “It was decided based on our summary disposition motion — that is, a motion for the treasurer, the city of Grand Rapids and the land bank — and he granted the motion to dismiss the 2013 case for essentially the same reason he granted the motion to dismiss in 2012.”

A year ago, Buth rejected the plaintiffs' claim that state law did not allow for the sale of tax-foreclosed properties by the county to the land bank.

Appeals

The plaintiffs have 21 days to appeal Buth’s ruling, and they are expected to do so, as they did after last year’s dismissal.

“We’re anticipating that the plaintiffs will file another appeal,” Ophoff said.

The plaintiffs’ appeal of the 2012 Circuit Court ruling is still pending.

“That matter, as I understand it, has been completely briefed, and we’re waiting for the court to assign an argument date,” Ophoff said.

The plaintiffs

The most recent lawsuit was brought forward by multiple plaintiffs: The Rental Properties Owners Association of Kent County, 3830G LLC, Rusty Richter, the Affordable Housing Coalition, Charlie Curtis, Jeff Fortuna, James Kane, Daniel Hibma, the Keystone Realty Group LLC, Gregg McKee and Sharon Hall.

The 2012 lawsuit was also filed by multiple plaintiffs: the Rental Properties Owners Association of Kent County, 3830G LLC, Richter, the Affordable Housing Coalition, Curtis, Fortuna, Kane, Hibma, the Keystone Realty Group, McKee, Josh Beckett and Michael Beckett.

“We’re pleased with the result,” Ophoff said. “We’re a little exasperated, I guess, that these things keep getting filed. But hopefully, the Court of Appeals will give us some direction on this fairly soon.”

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