Moroun loses another court decision in attempt to block the NITC

Foes of new bridge won’t be heard by U.S. Supreme Court

David Shepardson
The Detroit News

Washington — The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will not review a June decision by a appeals court that upheld the Federal Highway Administration’s decision to select the Delray neighborhood of Detroit as the preferred location for a new international bridge crossing to Canada.

Without comment, the Supreme Court let stand the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ affirmation of a 2012 ruling by U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn dismissing a lawsuit by the Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Citizens With Challenges, Detroit Association of Black Organizations and other community groups — along with the Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the privately held Ambassador Bridge and wants to build one next to it.

The court’s decision comes five days after Canada and the United States reached a deal in which Canada will put up the hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a U.S. Customs plaza at the new Windsor-Detroit bridge and be repaid through tolls. The bridge could open as early as 2020.

Sara Wurfel, press secretary to Gov. Rick Snyder, praised the ruling last year: “The decision affirms the exhaustive work and public transparency that went into the siting decisions. This is the latest round of great news regarding the NITC.”

A panel of the appeals court wrote that the federal agency used a “a lengthy, reasoned process based on an objective analysis subject to public scrutiny throughout.” The panel also rejected the contention the United States yielded to Canada’s opposition to adding a second span to the Ambassador Bridge, writing the United States did not “rubber stamp” the decision.

Mickey Blashfield, director of governmental relations for the Ambassador Bridge, last year criticized the appeals court ruling. He did not have an immediate response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

The highway administration “refused to consider the Ambassador Bridge Twin Span even though it was the highest ranked alternative in most of the environmental tests the (agency) was required to apply. The (agency) supposedly based its decision on the unsupported claim that Canada objected to the environmental impacts the Twin Span would have in Canada, despite no evidence of any such impact,” Blashfield said.

Opponents argued the highway agency’s review and 2009 approval violated the National Environmental Protection Act, Administrative Procedures Act, principles of environmental justice and other federal laws.

The ruling is the latest setback to foes of a bridge crossing known as the New International Trade Crossing, which is to be two miles from the Ambassador Bridge.

In June, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a required permit for a publicly owned bridge from Detroit to Canada — clearing another key hurdle in the high-profile project. A federal judge in Washington, also in June, rejected a legal motion to force the Coast Guard to issue a permit to Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun for his proposed six-lane span alongside the Ambassador Bridge.

Moroun’s bridge company has been fighting efforts by the state of Michigan and the Canadian government to build the bridge it insists will harm the Ambassador’s business. In court filings, the company argued it needs to build a second span across the Detroit River to handle traffic while it repairs the Ambassador so it can compete with the publicly financed bridge.

Originally posted by The Detroit News

Moroun sues to stop the NITC and 10,000 Michigan jobs. When is enough, enough?

Lawyers for Ambassador Bridge owner seek to block rival bridge permit

Written by
Todd Spangler
Detroit Free Press

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun asked for a preliminary injunction today to block the U.S. Coast Guard from issuing a permit for a proposed Detroit River span.

Moroun’s lawyers filed the request in U.S. District Court in Washington, saying that it recently came to their attention that the Coast Guard may be intending to issue a navigation permit soon for the New International Trade Crossing.

The lawyers have maintained throughout their years-long legal battle over the proposed bridge that both the U.S. and Canadian governments granted the owners of the Ambassador Bridge an exclusive franchise that can be overridden only by acts of each country’s legislative bodies.

“The basis for the preliminary injunction sought in this motion is simple: The Coast Guard is violating plaintiffs’ franchise rights and constitutional rights, and is causing plaintiffs irreparable harm right now,” the lawyers wrote U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington. “As plaintiffs have shown elsewhere … the construction of (the new bridge) will make it impossible for plaintiffs to build their proposed twin span.”

Moroun has been trying to get permission to build a second span for the 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge for some years, but the Canadian government, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and many local corporate leaders have thrown their support behind the NITC.

A hearing on the motion is expected in early April.

Originally posted by the Detroit Free Press

Vander Doelen: Battle of the Titans

The Windsor Star

By Chris Vander Doelen

I hope I can score a seat in Ontario Superior Court to hear the lawsuit filed against the Ambassador Bridge by two Windsor homeowners this week.

Scalpers would be able to make a fortune on this showdown: a battle of titans, one American, one Canadian.

On the U.S. side is billionaire bridge owner Matty Moroun, possibly the most ferocious legal combatant and filer of lawsuits in the region. Moroun has been known to fight a single case for more than 30 years rather than give up against overwhelming odds.

Moroun has defeated governments and even buried judges in the midst of some actions by simply outlasting them. He’s known to have dozens of lawsuits going at once on both sides of the border, against anyone who defies him. Fearless, relentless, loathed.

On the Canadian side, representing the little guy, is legendary Harvey Strosberg, one of the heaviest of legal heavyweights in Canadian law. A Windsor native, his firm spans the country, as does his reach and reputation.

It’s about time Moroun and his Ambassador Bridge group of companies faced a worthy opponent in their long-running war of attrition against the City of Windsor and its citizens – and they’ve finally got one.

No offense to the many other lawyers who have faced down the bridge and won. But Moroun may not have faced one of Strosberg’s calibre yet. A lot of readers probably joined me in cheering this week when we read about the civil lawsuit Sutts, Strosberg LLP have filed on behalf of two families who own badly devalued homes in Olde Sandwich Towne near the bridge.

The property owners are seeking the largest punitive damages in Canadian history – $10 million worth – from the bridge and its owners for allegedly turning their neighbourhood into a slum and destroying their property values.

As nearly everyone who lives in Windsor is aware of and a previous court has already determined (Hilary Payne et al vs. The City of Windsor et al, 2011), that the “dereliction” the Ambassador Bridge showed the 112 homes it bought in Olde Sandwich Towne turned the neighbourhood on Indian Road into a rotting eyesore.

In the previous lawsuit, justice Richard Gates was scathing in his dissection of what the Ambassador Bridge and its agents have done to Windsor’s West end, and why.

So this is going to be good: put me down now for a seat in court because it will be both entertaining and instructive to listen to Strosberg wield his own scalpel with that ruling already on the record.

If he’s on your side, Strosberg is one of the most charming, gifted and successful figures in Canadian law. But if he’s representing the other side he’s downright scary.

Windsor lawyers I talked to this week said they look forward to the showdown with interest. The bridge pretty much declared open war on the city years ago in its push to add a second span to their old crossing.

Specifically, they’ve fought homeowners, individual city councillors and the mayor, the city corporation itself, the province, the federal government, and a dozen or so ministries and agencies in between.

The bridge side of the battle keeps losing – most notably in the 2011 suit against the City of Windsor and in its repeated attempts to block the federal government’s plans to build a competing bridge over the Detroit River.

As an example of the bridge’s breathtaking chutzpah, its lawyers once spent years telling Ottawa that the company’s powers outranked those of the federal government on the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers. It claimed to own the franchise on all forms of vehicle traffic crossing in the region. Nice try, boys, but no.

Strosberg specialize in class action suits, among other things. He is not known for long-shot legal jousts, Don Quixote style. I heard Wednesday that if Strosberg takes a case it’s usually because he’s weighed the risks and concluded he can win.

The bridge issued a rather lame rebuttal to the lawsuit filing, accusing the City of Windsor of being the culprit in its dispute with the residents of Olde Sandwich Towne.

If only the city had allowed it to “safely demolish” the homes, the press release says, the bridge could have proceeded with its “improvements” to the neighborhood.

The main improvement the Ambassador Bridge envisages is building that second span that few on the Canadian side want. That would require a new 150-acre customs plaza which would pretty much obliterate the surrounding neighbourhood.

Other than that, Olde Sandwich will be much “improved” if it agrees to stop fighting the bridge’s plans.

“It is time to put down the swords and accomplish good things,” the statement concludes. That means giving up trying to protect a neighbourhood its residents overwhelmingly say they want preserved.

In other words, Windsor is again being advised to capitulate to a legal bully. Well, Mr. Bully, meet Mr. Strosberg. May the best man win.

Ambassador Bridge owners faces lawsuit from Windsor residents

Suit alleges bridge firm created ‘slum’

Dave Battagello, The Windsor Star

Homeowners who filed a civil lawsuit accusing the Ambassador Bridge company of turning a west end neighbourhood into a “slum” are seeking $10 million in punitive damages – described as the largest amount in Canadian history.

The lawsuit says the bridge is treating residents in the west-end’s Indian Road corridor “as collateral damage” in its pursuit of a twin span.

The lawsuit, filed in Ontario Superior Court by Windsor lawyer Harvey Strosberg, points to 112 properties purchased in Olde Sandwich Towne over the past decade by billionaire bridge owner Matty Moroun’s company.

The bridge abandoned, boarded up and left the properties to rot, and residents “now feel they are living near, and in some cases, across from what basically amounts to a slum,” according to a statement of claim.

The lawsuit seeks $5 million apiece on behalf of two clients – five members of the DeSando family, who own two homes in the 600 block of Rosedale Avenue, and 91-year-old Stephen Chaborek, who built his house in the 600 block of Indian Road in the mid-1950s.

The lawsuit estimates his home value has declined by about $100,000 in the past decade.

“It’s like hell,” said Chaborek. “The people that have these homes have made a ghetto out of it.”

“That’s what we have to put up with. This company is so big you can’t fight them – and I don’t think they even care.”

Since the late 1990s, bridge officials have made no secret of their plan to demolish homes on tree-lined Indian Road, Rosedale Avenue and Edison Street to expand bridge operations and build a twin span.

But that plan has been repeatedly rejected by government decision-makers on both sides of the border who are pushing forward with construction two kilometres downriver of the $1-billion Detroit River International Crossing.

Strosberg says the onus is on Moroun’s company to fix the homes it owns on Indian and Rosedale. Instead, the company ignores upkeep of the homes in violation of the city’s building code and property standards bylaw, he said.

“Every man, woman – even dog – has to comply with the minimum standards bylaw,” Strosberg said Monday. “Every day they don’t do that it’s a continual nuisance. You can’t just brick up the windows and the entry to the house, get rid of the gutters. You have to maintain the property.”

The bridge company should have kept the homes occupied and in good condition until there were government decisions in place to allow their operations to expand or the twin span to be built, the lawyer said.

“We allege the (bridge company) destroyed a community,” Strosberg said. “They have perpetuated a slum for their own selfish, economic interests.”

The punitive damages equate to about $50,000 on average that should be spent to restore each of the 112 bridge-owned properties, Strosberg said.

The damages sought are also high since the Ambassador Bridge – North America’s busiest border crossing – is worth more than $1 billion, with annual revenues estimated in the lawsuit at more than $200 million.

The lawsuit cites bridge company court filings against the city which refer to Olde Sandwich Towne as once being a “lovely residential area.” That changed around 2004 when the bridge company, after accumulating dozens of homes in the community, started “committing nuisances,” according to the lawsuit.

Prior to the appearance of boarded-up homes, the neighbourhood was filled with an “eclectic mix of students and professionals, many employed by the university,” the lawsuit said. There were many longtime residents who took pride in their properties and kept them maintained.

Today, the abandoned and boarded-up homes have “severely impacted the quality of life” by seeing the neighbourhood become unsafe, providing a haven for squatters, vandals and transients, subjecting the residents to eyesores, threatening health through growth in vermin and posing fire hazards.

The bridge company’s conduct in the destruction of the Sandwich Towne area is described in the lawsuit as “highhanded, outrageous, wanton, reckless, deliberate, disgraceful and wilful” while motivated by “avarice.”

Strosberg said the punitive damages being sought are the largest in Canadian history.

The allegations in the lawsuit have not been proven in court. The bridge company has 20 days to file a statement of defence.

Bridge company president Dan Stamper did not return a message left by The Star on Monday.

The DeSando family, based in Sault Ste. Marie, bought a home at 625 Rosedale Ave. in 1994 for $132,000 with the intention that it be used by the family’s children while they attended the University of Windsor or to provide income as a rental property.

The family’s plan has been to one day see the parents, Giuseppe and Immacolata, move to Windsor near their children and retire to live in the home. A second home was purchased by the family’s three sons in 2002 at 670 Rosedale for $117,000.

Until 2009, all three sons took turns living at length at the Rosedale homes.

“It’s an absolute shame what has happened,” said Ralph De-Sando, one of the plaintiffs. “I can’t in good conscience have my parents in their 70s live in that neighbourhood. I can’t sell it. Who is going to buy it? “My frustration reached a boiling point. Nothing is getting better. The legal route is my only recourse.

“At a minimum, they should have kept these houses maintained,” DeSando said. “There is no reason why they haven’t kept this a nice neighbourhood. Rosedale was a beautiful street.”

All of the bridge-owned properties fall within either the Sandwich Heritage Conservation district or under the Sandwich Community Improvement area created in recent years, said John Calhoun, the city’s heritage planner.

He believes many of the homes can still be saved and has hopes the neighbourhood can be restored.

“It’s one of the best collections of early 1920s housing with good stock reflective of that time,” said Calhoun of Indian and Rosedale.

“My hope is they can be put back into use. I’ve restored houses of that age and they can be worked on with good success without spending huge amounts of money.

“The community would benefit and you could fill in the lots with new homes for the ones that need replacing. Hopefully the community can be returned to the place it once was and become a contributing part to the city of Windsor.”

The impact of seeing several residential streets boarded up and left to crumble by Moroun has been “devastating,” said bake shop owner Mary Ann Cuderman, chairwoman of the Sandwich Business Improvement Association and bridge company watchdog.

“It’s a blight,” she said. “It’s been ridiculous that all these homes have been lost. I still believe many of them can be rebuilt.”

Restoration of the streets into a viable residential area is essential for the future of the Sandwich community and the west end, Cuderman said.

“Look at all the families lost in that area,” she said. “The economic and social impacts have been great and it’s all because of (Moroun), nobody else. It’s about time somebody stood up to him on this. I love it. Kudos to these people.”

Residents Suing Ambassador Bridge Owner

BlackburnNews.com

Written by Adelle Loiselle

BlackburnNews.com file photo of a boarded up home next to the Ambassador Bridge.

BlackburnNews.com file photo of a boarded up home next to the Ambassador Bridge.

Two residents living in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge have filed a $10-million lawsuit over the state of the neighbourhood.

The residents live on Indian Rd. and Rosedale Ave., where 112 homes owned by the Canadian Transit Company have been boarded up over the past decade. The suit, filed by lawyers at Sutts Strosberg LLP, alleges the company has allowed their neighbourhood to fall into such disrepair that property values have fallen precipitously, and they can no longer enjoy their homes.

While lawyer Bill Sasso says the claim for compensatory damages is not the largest, the case is unique for the amount of punitive damages it seeks against the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge. “What the Canadian Transit Company has done is try to change the character of this neighbourhood from a residential neighbourhood to one that has other industrial or commercial operations such as the second bridge that it planned.” The Canadian Transit Company has never received approval for a second span over the Detroit River.

Lawyer Bill Sasso says it is not about money. “People from this area I don’t believe have given up and are not abandoning this as a slum. The people are bringing this lawsuit in the hope and belief that they can improve the neighbourhood and compel the Canadian Transit Company to take steps to improve the neighbourhood.”

Homeowners surrounded by Indian Road ‘slum’ file lawsuit against bridge company

The Windsor Star

By Dave Battagello

“It’s like hell,” said Chaborek. “The people that have these homes have made a ghetto out of it. That’s what we have to put up with. This company is so big you can’t fight them — and I don’t think they even care.”

Since the late 1990s, bridge officials have made no secret of their intention to demolish homes on tree-lined Indian Road, Rosedale Avenue and Edison Street to expand bridge operations and build a twin span.

But that plan has been repeatedly rejected by government decision-makers on both sides of the border, who are pushing forward with construction two kilometres downriver of the $1-billion Detroit River International Crossing.

Strosberg says the onus is on Moroun’s company to fix the homes it owns on Indian and Rosedale. Instead, the company ignores their upkeep in violation of the city’s building code and property standards bylaw, he said.

“Every man, woman — even dog — has to comply with the minimum standards bylaw,” Strosberg said Monday. “Every day they don’t do that it’s a continual nuisance. You can’t just brick up the windows and the entry to the house, get rid of the gutters. You have to maintain the property.”

The bridge company should have kept the homes occupied and in good condition until there were government decisions in place to allow their operations to expand or the twin span to be built, the lawyer said.

“We allege the (bridge company) destroyed a community,” Strosberg said. “They have perpetuated a slum for their own selfish, economic interests.”

The punitive damages equate to about $50,000 on average that should be spent to restore each of the 112 bridge-owned properties, Strosberg said.

The damages sought are also high since the Ambassador Bridge — North America’s busiest border crossing — is worth more than $1 billion, with annual revenues estimated in the lawsuit at more than $200 million.

The lawsuit cites bridge company court filings against the city which refer to Olde Sandwich Towne as once being a “lovely residential area.”  That changed around 2004 when the bridge company, after accumulating dozens of homes in the community, started “committing nuisances,” according to the lawsuit.

Prior to the appearance of boarded-up homes, the neighbourhood was filled with an “eclectic mix of students and professionals, many employed by the university,” the lawsuit said. There were many long-time residents who took pride in their properties and kept them maintained.

Today, the abandoned and boarded-up homes have “severely impacted the quality of life” by seeing the neighbourhood become unsafe, providing a haven for squatters, vandals and transients, subjecting the residents to eyesores, threatening health through growth in vermin and posing fire hazards.

The bridge company’s conduct in the destruction of the Sandwich Towne is described in the lawsuit as “high-handed, outrageous, wanton, reckless, deliberate, disgraceful and wilful” while motivated by “avarice and greed.”

Strosberg said the punitive damages being sought are the largest in Canadian history.

The allegations in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.

The bridge company has 20 days to file a statement of defence.

Bridge company president Dan Stamper did not return a message left by The Star on Monday.

The DeSando family, based in Sault Ste. Marie, bought a home at 625 Rosedale Ave. in 1994 for $132,000 with the intention that it be used by the family’s children while they attended the University of Windsor or  to provide income as a rental property.

The family’s plan has been to one day see the parents, Giuseppe and Immacolata, move to WIndsor near their children and retire to live in the home. A second home was purchased by the family’s three sons in 2002 at 670 Rosedale for $117,000.

Until 2009, all three sons took turns living at length at the Rosedale homes.

“It’s an absolute shame what has happened,” said Ralph DeSando, one of the plaintiffs. “I can’t in good conscience have my parents in their 70s live in that neighbourhood. I can’t sell it. Who is going to buy it?

“My frustration reached a boiling point. Nothing is getting better. The legal route is my only recourse. At a minimum, they should have kept these houses maintained. There is no reason why they haven’t kept this a nice neighbourhood. Rosedale was a beautiful street.”

All of the bridge-owned properties fall within either the Sandwich Heritage Conservation district or under the Sandwich Community Improvement area created in recent years, said John Calhoun, the city’s heritage planner.

He believes many of the homes can still be saved and has hopes the neighbourhood can be restored.

Boarded-up homes in the Indian Road area are pictured in West Windsor, Ont. on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.                (TYLER BROWNBRIDGE / The Windsor Star)

“It’s one of the best collections of early 1920s housing with good stock reflective of that time,” said Calhoun of Indian and Rosedale. “My hope is they can be put back into use. I’ve restored houses of that age and they can be worked on with good success without spending huge amounts of money.

“The community would benefit and you could fill in the lots with new homes for the ones that need replacing. Hopefully the community can be returned to the place it once was and become a contributing part to the city of Windsor.”

The impact of seeing several residential streets boarded up and left to crumble by Moroun has been “devastating,” said bake shop owner Mary Ann Cuderman, chairwoman of the Sandwich Business Improvement Association and bridge company watchdog.

“It’s a blight,” she said. “It’s been ridiculous that all these homes have been lost. I still believe many of them can be rebuilt.”

Restoration of the streets into a viable residential area is essential for the future of the Sandwich community and the west end, Cuderman said.

“Look at all the families lost in that area,” she said. “The economic and social impacts have been great and it’s all because of (Moroun), nobody else. It’s about time somebody stood up to him on this. I love it. Kudos to these people.”

Ambassador Bridge ups tolls for 18-wheelers

Fleet Owner
Deborah Whistler

The Ambassador Bridge tolls went up 25 cents for all vehicles on Aug. 15, a 5.3% hike. A discount of $1 per trip is available with a frequent user “Reward” program and use of a 3M 6C electronic toll sticker tag.

Truck tolls have risen a quarter for each class of truck. Class A  (0 – 36,000 lbs.) went from $3.25/axle to $3.50/axle; Class B  (36,001 – 54,000 lbs.) from $3.75/axle to $4/axle and Class C  (54,001 – 145,000 lbs.) from $5.25/axle to $5.50/axle

The Blue Water Bridge U.S.-Canada operated by the state of Michigan has truck tolls of $3.25 while the Canada-U.S. trips tolled by the Canadian BWBA are $3.50 with a prepaid account and $3.75 without. The Blue Water Bridge has no electronic toll discounts like the Rewards available at the Ambassador Bridge so for frequent users the Ambassador Bridge remains competitive on price, according to a Tollroads News report.