Holly Township wants to force family to clean property

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Holly Township officials want a judge to order a township couple to clean up their property or they will do it and charge them for the job.

That is part of an injunction request contained in a 16-page complaint filed Wednesday in Oakland Circuit Court. In it the township renewed concerns over alleged ordinance violations on 10 acres of property on South Holly Road owned by Timm Smith and Maria Howard-Smith.

The lawsuit claims the couple has blocked the township from its adjacent property by parking a vehicle across a Consumers Energy Co. utility access and posting “No Trespassing” signs.

It’s all part of a five-year legal battle between the township and the Smiths, who have lived in a woodstove-heated modified travel trailer with their two teenaged children for more than two years after losing their house and part of their land in a bank foreclosure.

“I am a disabled man and my wife works full-time — we are doing what we can on good days,” said Timm, a former skilled tradesman who lost his house and an adjacent 10-acre wooded lot after breaking his back and suffering a heart attack five years ago.

“We took several loads (of debris) to the dump last Saturday — Dale Smith (the township supervisor) should know we are trying. He saw us there.”

The township has refused to issue a certificate of occupancy because it does not consider the Smith’s structure a lawful dwelling. It has threatened to cut electrical power to the Smiths because the utility pole on township property and the underground cable running to the Smiths presents a safety concern.

In 2011, the Smiths filed their own lawsuit against the township, a complaint eventually dismissed by Oakland Circuit Judge Colleen O’Brien, who has been assigned the township’s lawsuit. The Smiths are trying to have their lawsuit heard by the Michigan Court of Appeals because of foreclosure and land division issues they feel violate state law.

The land rights issue grabbed the attention of Oakland County Commissioner Robert Hoffman, R-Highland Township, whose efforts last year to help the Smiths only served to further anger township officials.

Last November, Hoffman sponsored a resolution asking township officials to maintain the electrical power after the Smiths parked a backhoe across the only road leading off of South Holly Road. When the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the resolution, the township wrote back complaining of Hoffman’s interference in their affairs and township meetings.

“This is outrageous,” Hoffman said Thursday after hearing of the new lawsuit. “What are they (township) going to try next? They’ve taken their property and their health.”

Hoffman and the Smiths said the township engaged in a “land grab” motivated by a desire to build a riverside park at the location. Part of the property borders the Shiawassee River.

The injunction calls on the Smiths to dispose of blight and bring the property into compliance or the township will do the work with costs being applied as a lien against the property and after a hearing, any unpaid sums after 30 days placed on the tax roll.

The township also wants the Smiths put on notice that blocking the roadway is illegally denying the township access to its property. The township seeks civil fines, costs to be decided by the court and also its attorneys fees to be paid by the Smiths.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319