Detroit man fights city to save Corktown building in his family for 50 years

- It has been in the same family for more than 50 years, but a Corktown building is now facing foreclosure.

The owners are blaming the city claiming they were being charged for drainage fees, but weren't told until the bill was well past due.

"It was just something we've always had, it was always there," said Arnold Carpen. "My son was a baby when he was there."

Carpen calls the humble piece of property on Detroit's Dalzelle Street his family's legacy. Carpen, 57, is brought to tears at the thought of losing the building.

"My father passed it on to me and I planned on passing it to my children," he said. "And they can pass it on to their children if they choose."

Carpen took over the fenced-in property that his father purchased in 1966, which is an old Mobil gas station and uses it as a garage.

"I teach my children to do tune-ups and oil changes and how to fix things instead of just throwing them away," Carpen said, adding he is there usually every other day.

But now there is a fight to save it, which has prompted Carpen's kids to post signs outside and on social media after Carpen says he received a letter in February saying the building was facing foreclosure.

"They said it's because of storm water drainage tax that is on the property," he said. "I said I know nothing about it."

The bills total more than $8,000 dating back to August of 2013. Carpen says he quickly called the city's water and sewerage department -- and told them he never received a bill.

"In 2013, DWSD was notified by the US Post Office that the property was vacant and mail was undeliverable," said Palencia Mobley, deputy director and chief engineer of DWSD.

"I said look there's a mailbox and you will see it on the fence," Carpen said. "You could've sent it there or you could have sent it where the property taxes go, and all I got was crickets."

Carpen says he's been trying to speak with someone directly since February and doesn't understand why the property is listed as vacant.

"We have spoken to him, he is coming in tomorrow," Mobley said. "The bills that were not able to be delivered, we spoke to the treasurer to get bills to have those removed."

Carpen said he knew nothing about the planned meeting.

DWSD says this is not a common issue and it is working to update accounts with customer contact information. Carpen says he worries there are others drowning in unpaid drainage fees.

"Do we have to go to court on everything," he said. "Can't reasonable people just sit down and admit their mistakes and solve this thing?"

Carpen got a phone call late Tuesday afternoon with DWSD agreeing to meet with Carpen Wednesday morning.

"I'm meeting with the same person I spoke to in February that didn't do anything for me," he said. "Nothing is going to happen."

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