Judge wants more arguments in Burton-Katzman suit

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN— It’s going to take more time and more arguments before Wayne County Judge Michael Sapala is ready to mete out justice in the city’s lawsuit against Burton-Katzman Development Co.

Sapala’s request for more arguments came at a Sept. 25 court hearing that city officials had hoped would start bringing some closure to the open wound that is the West Village Commons development in the city’s west downtown.

In August, Sapala ruled B-K violated a developer’s agreement with the city by not completing several aspects of the Commons. City lawyers are seeking to have B-K either finish the project — which is absent two midrise buildings originally planned for the development — or give the city the land and about $17 million in damages and fines.

City Attorney Matthew Zalewski said Sapala’s decision was simply a matter of time constraints.

“I think really it was just that (Sapala) didn’t have enough time to consider all the arguments,” Zalewski said. “He opened up by acknowledging the case has high stakes, and I think he determined it deserved further argument.”

Also still pending is a charge of silent fraud against several key B-K executives, a claim for which both sides have filed for summary judgment, a tool used to expedite the judicial process when substantial facts have been presented. Neither side won its motion.

The claim itself stems from a corporate dissolution filed by B-K in 2008, but didn’t disclose to city officials.

City officials contend the nondisclosure violates a clause in the developer’s agreement that requires either party to make the other aware of any material changes in financial capacity. B-K attorneys have countered that the company that ran the development, West Village LLC, a B-K subsidiary created specifically for the development, still was operating and thus, B-K management wasn’t obligated to disclose the information.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 16.