10/6/2006Michigan Wrongly Seizes Church Parking Lot, Pastor Wants it Back
A Michigan county improperly seized and sold a church parking lot. The pastor fights in the state supreme court to get it back.
Yesterday the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments about a parking lot that Wayne County had illegally seized and handed over to private developers. Marvin L. Winans, the pastor of Perfecting Church in Detroit, is leading the fight to keep the lot which he had purchased for the church for $100,000 in 1999. His attorney, James Geary, argued in court that a car stolen from that parking lot would be returned by the police.
"But if the parking lot is stolen from out underneath its car, it can't get that back. What sense does that make?" Geary said, as quoted in the Detroit Free Press.
In 2003, the county claimed the tax-exempt church owed taxes on the small parking lot it provided for the use of parishioners. Instead of providing notice to the church, they sent a notice to the prior owner of the property and posted a delinquency notice on property that the church did not own. Not knowing of any problem, the church had no way to correct the error before the lot was confiscated and sold to private developers Michael Kelly and Matthew Tatarian at a tax auction in November 2003.
The Wayne County Circuit Court and Michigan Court of Appeals agreed that the government had illegally seized the parking lot, but the developers argue that, according to a 1999 state law, once title is transferred to a new owner, the original owner cannot reclaim the land and is limited to filing a lawsuit to collect monetary damages.