Packed community meeting featuring Danny Glover says NO to largest land sale in Detroit history
Hantz Financial facing lawsuit over its recommendation of $2.5 billion Ponzi scheme to investors; paid $675,00o in 2005 to settle fraud claim
City Council to hold public hearing today, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m., and vote Dec. 11 at 10 a.m. with little notice to area residents
By Diane Bukowski
December 10, 2012
DETROIT—After virtually no notice to east-side residents, except a hastily called hearing today, the City Council plans to vote on the largest private land sale in Detroit history, 143.8 acres for $520,000, to Hantz Woodlands, LLC , during its 10 a.m. meeting Tues. Dec. 11.
That’s about $3,616 an acre, or 8 cents a square foot (correction noted per reader comment).
“HANTZ OFF OUR LAND,” Urban Network bookstore owner Yusef Shakur and many from the community involved are saying instead. “Broken down houses do not mean we are a broken people,” Charity Hicks adds.
The Hantz Group, based in Southfield, is owned by multi-millionaires John Hantz and Mike Score. Its parent company, Hantz Financial Services has 20 offices in Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia, more than 500 employees, and $1.3 billion in assets under management.
Hantz Financial, is currently embroiled in litigation over a $2.2 billion Ponzi scheme the company recommended to investors, according to a posting by the White Law Group at http://www.whitesecuritieslaw.com/2012/11/12/medical-capital-class-action-against-hantz-financial/.
Earlier, in 2005, “Hantz Financial agreed to pay a $675,000 settlement for fraud stemming from misleading, inaccurate and fraudulent representations, misstatements, omissions and patently incorrect statements about its independent status,” according to Ward Harris of the McHenry Group, in an article in The Inside Edition at http://www.enewsbuilder.net/mchenrygroup/e_article000451796.cfm .
Hantz told the Wall Street Journal Detroit “cannot create value until we create scarcity. Large-scale farming could begin to take land out of circulation in a positive way.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304898704577479090390757800.html
He said he originally wanted to purchase “10,000 acres of vacant private and city-owned property here into the world’s largest for-profit urban farm.” But after adverse reaction from the community, he and Score claim they only want to grow trees on a smaller swath of land.
City documents describe it as follows: “1,558 parcels totaling 143.8 acres of surplus City-owned lots within an area defined by (a) Mack Avenue, Van Dyke Avenue, Kercheval Street, and Maxwell Street, on the west side of Indian Village, and (b) Mack Avenue, Fischer Street, E. Jefferson Avenue, and St. Jean Street, on the east side of Indian Village.”
But the documents add that Hantz Woodlands “intends to develop the Property for the purpose of planning and maintaining hardwood trees and conifers, and conducting such other uses as are or will be consistent with applicable law, regulations, and ordinances, including zoning.” (Click on CC Agenda 12 11 12.)
They say that if the city adopts an ordinance to facilitate urban agriculture, which the City Planning Commission did Dec. 6, Hantz will re-apply to use the land for that purpose.
During a packed meeting at the east-side Timbuktu School of Science and Technology Dec. 8, featuring actor/activist Danny Glover, many area residents said that the City has not allowed them to purchase even lots adjacent to their own. They called instead for a Community Land Bank Trust, to keep the land in the hands of the people.
Much of Detroit’s land is vacant due to the hurricane of bank and tax foreclosures that has devastated city neighborhoods over the last decade, policies of urban removal and gentrification, as well as the shutdown of schools and other city services.
“This violates the City Charter and the State Constitution, because the land is set to be sold at an undervalued rate, “said Lottie Spady of the East Michigan Environmental Council. “There is no fair and transparent process by which the average citizen can purchase land. There is no community benefits agreement in this deal, and no obligation expressed to this generation and those to come. The land is right next to wealthy Indian Village and only a mile from the Detroit River. There is no soil remediation proposed. If trees are grown and cut for sale, they would have to be classified as toxic waste.”
Linda Bane of the Riverview Village Community Block Club said despite a Hantz agreement with the Lower East Side Action Group (LEAP), to which she belongs, and support from the Warren-Conner Community Development Corporation, residents like herself have been left out of the loop.
“I am LEAP’s community contact person on this,” Bane said. “I met Mike Score at a meeting almost two years ago, and I have been to numerous meetings since, but I have been ignored. I’ve been out knocking on doors in my neighborhood, and most people know nothing about the plan. They say they have tried to buy lots themselves without success. One man tried to buy a whole block to start a community co-op, but he was denied. We really want to purchase the land ourselves. It would provide all sorts of opportunities for our community.”
Kwamena Mensah of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and manager of the west-side community D-town Farm, said the question is self-determination.
“We are opposed to this land grab,” he said. “The same thing is happening in other cities and countries in Africa and Latin America. We support a community land bank trust.”
A speaker from South Africa who grew up in Soweto agreed.
“We are fighting for OUR land,” he said. “The Creator made it for the human race, with all its resources. The land can feed the whole planet Earth if it is not held by selfish and greedy people.”
The reference to land grabs in Africa is all the more compelling because Score spent four years in Zaire (Congo) working on an agricultural development scheme there, according to the Hantz website.
To a standing ovation, Danny Glover, who had flown in from Savannah, Georgia, then took the mike.
“We are at a critical moment in the history of this city, this country, and the planet,” Glover said. “There is work to be done, protracted work, not a sprint but a long-distance run. Every single one of our voices must be heard. We are in the presence of an incredible shift, not just in people’s consciousness, but also in the way people are treated by those who have power. “
He recalled Detroit’s history as a city of promise, where people employed at the auto plants and their off-shoots, many who migrated from the Jim Crow south, could get decent jobs and raise their families in their own homes. He said the city since has been virtually “eviscerated,” and recalled the reaction of Detroiters during the 1967 rebellion.
“That was reaction to frustration, to being alienated from what we need for our very existence,” Glover explained. “The reaction came from people not able to find work, not knowing what to do.”
He said the Hantz “land grab” is symbolic of something much larger.
“But our truth cannot be denied,” he asserted. “We have to get to work knocking on doors to bring people to the table. This is not a fait accompli, but it is one moment in a long journey, on which YOU will be the architects of your own destiny.”
THE CORPORATE PLAYERS:
The Hantz Group, Inc. with its subsidiary Hantz Financial, Inc. is a mid-sized brokerage firm based in Southfield, Michigan at 26200 American Drive that has 260 affiliated financial advisers. It also has an office in Taylor. It operates in Michigan and Ohio. It offers broker/dealer and investment advisory services, including financial planning, tailored ongoing advice, tax planning, retirement, saving for retirement, college savings, risk management, disability, long term care, estate planning, and life insurance; business planning, executive compensation, employer access, individual blue cross enrollment, educational, and benefits services for corporate clients; commercial risk insurance agency services; and underwriting services for life and disability insurance for individuals. The company was founded in 1998. Its website is at http://www.HantzGroup.com .
Hantz Farms, LLC, owned by Hantz Group CEO John R. Hantz, who is also CEO of Hantz Farms. Hantz Farms owns properties, purchased either from the Wayne County Treasurer or the Michigan Fast Track Land Bank Authority, at 3438 McClellan, 17414 Dwyer, 2526 Fischer, 3075 Belvidere, 17433 St. Louis, 3038 Belvidere, 3070 Belvidere, 1527 Pennsylvania, 1540 Belvidere, 1805 Fischer, 1523 Holcomb, 17403 Dwyer, 17409 Dwyer, 17415 Dwyer, 17421 Dwyer, 17475 Dwyer, 17456 St. Louis, 17426 St. Louis, 17473 St. Louis, and 17400 St. Louis, according to Wayne County Register of Deeds records.
Hantz Woodlands, LLC was just incorporated on May 4, 2012, and maintains an office at 17403 Mt. Elliott in addition to the Southfield location. The Mt. Elliott address is not located in the affected area. The Wayne County Register of Deeds shows that Hantz Woodlands currently owns no property in the county.
John R. Hantz: according to Fortune Magazine, “is a wealthy money manager who lives in an older enclave of Detroit where all the houses are grand and not all of them are falling apart. Once a star stockbroker at American Express, he left 13 years ago to found his own firm. Today Hantz Financial Services has 20 offices in Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia, more than 500 employees, and $1.3 billion in assets under management.” He is CEO of Hantz Financial, Hantz Group, Inc. Hantz Farms, LLC, and Hantz Woodlands, LLC (the last just incorporated in May, 2012.) Wayne County Land Records show he and/or his wife Josephine own properties at 2505 Iroquois, 2550 Iroquois, 1763 Iroquois, 1352 Bedford, 2504 Seminole, 18330 Fairway Drive, 1480 Seminole, 9090 Dwight, 2539 Iroquois, 14421 Harbor Island, 2253 Burns, 2940 Seminole (tax-delinquent under the name of Ursula Wells for over $20,000), and 293 Moran.
Michael Score has been the President at Hantz Farms, LLC at Hantz Group, Inc. since December 2009. Mr. Score has 30 years of experience in agricultural production, food system economic development and community development. Mr. Score has assisted more than 200 entrepreneurs in efforts to achieve their dreams and build sustainable communities through food system business development. For over four years, Mr. Score was involved in international agricultural development … in the Republic of Zaire (Congo). Following their return to the United States, Mr. Score worked for nine years as an Agricultural Educator with the University of Kentucky. Mr. Score served as Coordinator of a Kellogg-funded state-wide study of sustainable agriculture. He then returned to Michigan State University Extension as an Agricultural Educator serving as an Innovation Counselor with the MSU Product Center. Mr. Score received his Master of Arts in Rural Sociology in 1997. Mr. Score graduated from Michigan State University (MSU) in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Crop and Soil Sciences.
Matt Allen is the Senior Vice President of Hantz Farms, LLC and recently joined the Hantz Group after concluding a governmental appointment as Press Secretary for the City of Detroit under former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. A former broadcast journalist, Allen also has experience in the mortgage industry as a loan consultant and has 7 years of retail management experience with Dayton Hudson, Target and TJX. (VOD—During his time with Kilpatrick, Matt Allen was involved in a domestic dispute in his home in Indian Village, where news reports said he put his wife’s head through a window. His wife was Black.)
Related article, “John Hantz prepared to break ground on urban farm in Detroit, but hints of suburban backup” at http://www.mlive.com/business/detroit/index.ssf/2010/04/john_hantz_prepared_to_develop.html
Also see blog on Hantz Farms at http://www.thebellforum.com/showthread.php?t=9716 .