By Charles Sercombe
City Councilmember Anam Miah is asking the city administration to look into the sale of a Caniff lot to a local developer.
The lot, located at 2028 Caniff, had been city-owned until 2016 when former City Manager Katrina Powell sold it to Henry Velleman for $2,500.
The lot had not been put up for auction, which at the time was required by the final orders laid down by former Emergency Manager Cathy Square.
One of her orders said that if a city asset was going to be sold, it must go through an auction process.
Powell also did not tell the city council about the sale. Powell left her position last year when her employment contract ran out.
Miah asked Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer and City Attorney Jim Allen at last Tuesday’s council meeting to investigate the matter and take appropriate action.
He also asked for a review of “other lots that were sold that we don’t know about,” Miah told The Review in a telephone interview.
He said the sale of the Caniff lot was unfair to others in the community.
“It was not advertised so nobody else in the community had an opportunity to bid on it,” Miah said.
The lot is now one of several lots that Velleman owns on Caniff, which are sitting undeveloped.
Velleman owns dozens of lots and commercial buildings in the city. He has been criticized by some in the community for keeping most of his commercial properties vacant, which has made a large chunk of Jos. Campau look empty.
Velleman owns Progressive Poletown Properties, located on Jos. Campau.
As for why Powell sold the lot, that is not known. She did not return an email from The Review asking for an explanation.
But according to an email Powell sent to community stakeholders a couple of years ago, it appears she was trying encourage Velleman to take care of his other lots and rent out his empty storefronts.
“Clearly, if someone has ever met Henry and/or had a conversation with him, you know threatening him or pushing him against the wall, to get your way, Will. Not. Work,” Powell said in her email to the stakeholders, which was obtained by Mlive.com, an online publication.
Powell continued: “Trying to shame him publicly just gives him the fight he so desires, and no one wins.”