Gilchrist cited for blight violation before election

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
Fencing has been installed around the front of the property at 253 and 257 Marston Street in Detroit. The property was bought in 2016 by Garlin Gilchrist II from the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

A city inspector slapped Lt. Gov.-elect Garlin Gilchrist with a blight violation "for excessive weeds or plant growth" outside his vacant Detroit duplex apartment building three weeks before the Nov. 6 general election.

Gilchrist and his wife were fined $50 for the violation at 253 Marston on Oct. 16, according to city records confirmed by a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works. They were also assessed $25 in city and state fees at the property, which they have been attempting to rehabilitate.

The blight ticket “has been paid,” said Michelle Grinnell, a spokeswoman for Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer's transition team, who declined further comment.

Public Works spokeswoman Tiffany Crawford confirmed that Gilchrist and his wife Ellen paid the $75 ticket and addressed issues that spawned the citation, which listed overgrowth in the back yard near an alley.   

“We are working with them right now to make sure everything is up to code,” Crawford said. “They’ve satisfied the ticket, and we’re just waiting to have our environmental team do an inspection of the property before it’s completely satisfied.”

The blight violation was first reported by Crain’s Detroit Business. As of Friday, the ticket was no longer affixed to the property’s fence where it had been posted. The city scheduled a hearing on the violation for March 13. 

Complaints over the condition of the vacant building emerged as a campaign issue for Gilchrist in October, when the city warned him he could lose the property if he didn’t clean it up. He also has a history of late tax payments at the North End neighborhood site, which he purchased for $27,000 from the Detroit Land Bank Authority in 2016 with plans to fix it up. 

City records show blight problems at 253 Marston began long before Gilchrist owned the building. Previous owners were ticketed 10 times between 2005 and 2008 because of waste on the property and sidewalks and failure to respond to notices, including emergency or imminent danger orders.

Gilchrist and his wife bought the property despite fire damage, a hole in the roof and other issues, he said in a video statement on Oct. 15, one day before the city inspector issued the blight fine.

"We poured our own money" into the project but struggled to secure financing to finish the rehabilitation, said Gilchrist, who has not done media interviews since winning election. He takes office Jan. 1.

"We made some honest oversights. That's all fixed now, and we are confident that not only are the taxes all paid up to speed, not only have the land bank's needs been satisfied, but also we're close to finding financing to be able to bring this project forward and make it be a positive contribution to the North End neighborhood." 

Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette highlighted Gilchrist’s property in his losing gubernatorial campaign against Whitmer. He visited the property and filmed a campaign video outside its perimeter fence.

“There’s kids riding on the sidewalk nearby, no security,” Schuette said. “(Gilchrist's) not living here. How’d you like to be his neighbor? Yet he wants to be part of running the state of Michigan?”

Whitmer acknowledged the property required “immediate attention” but argued the issues had nothing to do with Gilchrist’s ability to help run state government.

“Give me a break,” she said in October. “You know, Garlin wanted to come make an investment in the city of Detroit. He was excited to come back home. ... Obviously, people have bumps, and he’s trying to do his best to get it remedied, and I’m confident he will."

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