News Story

Lenawee County learns that property it bought for $2.3M is worth $440K

When the Phoenix Project failed, county was stuck with property

Lenawee County spent $2.3 million in 2021 to buy a piece of property that is now worth, at best, $440,000, according to a recent appraisal commissioned by the county board. The county made the purchase as part of Project Phoenix, a plan to create a sports complex in Tecumseh.

Michigan Capitol Confidential previously reported on the proposed project and one commissioner’s potential conflict of interest. Various local governments in the county opposed it, along with many residents. A key concern was that developing the complex could cost close to $90 million.

The county commission approved the multimillion-dollar purchase, with plans to use $10 million in federal stimulus funds for the project. The commissioners also floated the possibility of a $20 million bond.

An earlier set of commissioners contemplated looking to the state and federal government for grant funds, said Kevon Martis, elected to the commission in 2022. Plans for Project Phoenix had been put on hold due to a lack of funding and ended when the new commission voted it down in a 6 to 3 vote.

Martis opposed Project Phoenix as a resident before being elected to the commission.

“I was ardently opposed to the project for many reasons, and in particular felt the $2.3 million the county was paying was far beyond what the property was worth,” Martis told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “The appraisal the county commissioned proved my point.”

“The cost of removing the structure actually pushes the value to negative $200,000,” Martis added, referring to the concrete structure still occupying the property.

Remediation, he said, could cost “well into 6 figures.”

“Even if you supported Project Phoenix, there was no reason to pay the owner roughly $2 million more than it is worth,” Martis said.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.