Parking lot dispute involving bridge company to go to court Friday

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Wayne County Circuit Court will hear arguments Friday in the months-long dispute over land between Green Dot Stables and the Detroit International Bridge Co.

The hearing follows a court order last week for the bridge company to take down a fence it erected on Aug. 31, cordoning off half of the strip of land the restaurant uses as a parking lot. 

The lawsuit filed by Green Dot co-owner Jacques Driscoll claims squatter's rights, "adverse possession," over the property, which billionaire Matthew Moroun's bridge company claims to own.   

A judge ordered the Detroit International Bridge Co. to take down a fence it erected on a disputed strip of land that Green Dot Stables has been using for decades as a parking lot.

The two businesses had been engaged in six months of negotiations over the plot of land Driscoll said the restaurant has been using for more than 30 years, even before he and his wife bought the restaurant in 2011.

The bridge company had approached Driscoll to tell him it was going to tear down a neighboring building and to let the company know if Driscoll had any issues. The company also said it believed it might own part of the property where the parking lot stood, and it planned to do a survey to confirm that. 

"We tried to work out a deal, because I didn't want it to go to court," said Driscoll. 

When the two reached an impasse, Driscoll filed a lawsuit against the bridge company, and the company put up a fence in the middle of the parking lot. 

Bridge spokeswoman Esther Jentzen said the company erected the fence on Aug. 31 because it was worried about liability if someone was injured on the property.

“We simply cannot allow them to continue putting their customers and our company at risk,” she said before the company was ordered by the court to remove the fence. 

Driscoll's attorney, Michelle Harrell, said the court will have to decide the final question of who owns the strip of parking lot, adding that she expected the case to be complicated due to a "defective" deed to the parcel of land the bridge company owns. 

"They are going to have to prove their title," she said. I don't believe they have the ability to do that."

The confusion, Harrell explained, stems from mismatched dates of acquisition on the deed, which she said casts doubt over the legality of the bridge company's purchase of the lot from the now-dissolved department store, Crowley's. 

"I feel very strongly about our legal position," she said. "And we just have to wait for our day in court.”